Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine, Jay Leonhart + Others: Five for the Road

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Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine and Jay Leonhart are part of the latest edition of Five for the Road, an occasional look at music that’s been in my car lately …

JAY LEONHART – DON’T YOU WISH (2018): Jay Leonhard has been around a long time, yet seems to be as been as vibrant and relevant as ever. The double bassist is in typical fine form with his new release Don’t You Wish. Leonhart’s songwriting and vocals are tasty and a little twisted. Paired with pianist Tomoko Ohno, who’s played with the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band and is a mainstay with Sherry Maricle and the Diva Jazz Orchestra, Leonhart’s songs are fully fleshed and dynamic. Actually, some are downright funny. “Don’t You Wish” could be every bass player’s lament, while “Schadenfreude” has a rapier wit and Steely Dan-like sensibility. Oh, yes he is the father of Steely Dan band members Michael and Carolyn Leonhart and appeared with Steely Dan on their Marian McPartland album, if you must know. This is good stuff for lovers of double bass, as well as the bass/piano combos. Actually, it’s just good stuff.

STUART HAMM – THE DIARY OF PATRICK XAVIER (2018): Stuart Hamm, another bass legend, sheds some of the flash he displayed with guitarists like Joe Satrioni and Steve Vai for The Diary of Patrick Xavier, a focused and eclectic concept album that’s loosely based on an American trip through Europe. The results are stark, yet memorable. Hamm’s solo electric bass fills the sonic palette, evoking loss, despair and wondering. “Goodbye” starts at the beginning of the wandering, with Hamm’s warm tones. “Smoke Break” heats things up and propels the journey. Hamm’s chops are evident, yet the album is intimate and evocative. This is something rarely accomplished in a solo bass album.

JOE KYE – MIGRANTS (2018): Violinist Joe Kye has chops which bely his age. Migrants also shows a lot of heart and commitment. Kye incorporates percussion and voice to tell the stories of Korean immigrants to the U.S. His vocals are true and effective, while Kye’s layered violin swirls and dances with the complex soundscapes he’s created. After listening to “Bambam’s Lullaby” and “Fall In,” featuring Rasar and Jason Chu, you quickly realize that Migrants is more than the sum of its heady parts.

PETER ERSKINE AND THE DR. UM BAND – ON CALL (2018): Sure, Peter Erskine is a drumming legend. Team him with sax vet and fellow Steely Dan alum Bob Sheppard, a big-time keyboard legend, and also Steely Dan alum John Beasley as well as bassist Benjamin Shepherd, and this is an unbeatable juggernaut. Part studio, part live album, the two-disc On Call is chocked full of stellar original compositions by the band members, along with Beasley’s formidable arrangements. “Uncle Don,” composed by Erskine, moves with authority; it’s buoyed by Shepherd’s electric bass, while Sheppard’s alto floats above it all. Beasley’s electric piano and keyboards are inventive and rich. His song “If So Then” flaunts tradition, yet defies convention. Peter Erskine and his compadres prove they are still at the top of their game.

STEVE GADD BAND – STEVE GADD BAND (2018): Steve Gadd takes a slightly different road than Peter Erskine. Of course, Gadd has been extremely busy over the last several years with his own diverse releases. Steve Gadd Band is a hot dose of fusion, tightly honed by Gadd’s impressive group: Michael Landau and Jimmy Johnson have worked on several Gadd projects before, and both are part of James Taylor’s band. On the Landau composition “Rat Race,” Landau amazes with a funk-tinged composition and a graceful guitar presence which dances with Jimmy Johnson’s bass. Walt Fowler’s muted trumpet also provides subtle shades that tango with the melody. “Norma’s Girl,” written by bassist Johnson, is a slow gentle dance between Johnson, Landau and keyboardist Kevin Hays tied together by Steve Gadd’s brush work. Steve Gadd Band is also more than the sum of its parts.


Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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