David Sanborn and Bob James played the Robert N. Miner Auditorium as part of SF Jazz last week. The reason I was there was to see the legendary drummer Steve Gadd. Very few drummers have the range of styles, and have played with as many diverse artists, as Gadd. From Steely Dan (the break on Aja is the start of Gadd's legendary status) to Return to Forever to Eric Clapton, he has a complete mastery of American idioms from blues to bebop (he sat in with Dizzy at age 11!) to R & B rock and roll. Oh, I almost forgot his work for the CTI label, usually with Ron Carter on bass. Concierto, with leader Jim Hall and Paul Desmond and Chet Baker, and Skylark, a Paul Desmond date with Gabor Szabo, are must-haves. (The concept of a repetory label, with different players taking turns as leader, is a wonderful idea. Record a few albums with someone, and you know them really well.) David Sanborn has always been a soulful player, and the crowd delighted in the hits from the 80's, many of therm written by Marcus Miller. Bob James only seemed to listen to the other musicians when he was soloing. When comping he kept his eyes glued to the ipad atop the Steinway, presumably looking at the chord changes. The bassist James Genus was locked in with Gadd.
Gadd's playing is very simple; almost evrything he does could be executed by a good amateur drummer. The brilliance lies in the execution; the milliseconds of feel that separate a good musician from a great one. The feel, the groove, the emotion. The audience thought they were going nuts for Sanborn's impassioned wails - they were going nuts for the way Gadd built the grooves. The Mel Torme' oldie Comin Home Baby was a standout of the night. My next blog will mention another great drummer I just discovered, playing with Robert Plant!