Steve Gadd, James Carter & The Rodger Fox Big Band
Globe Theatre; Palmerston North
Wednesday, October 17
Rodger Fox has been trying to get Steve Gadd to New Zealand for at least two decades – and finally it happened, he has Gadd in town for a series of shows, the first of which was in Palmerston North. As well as being Gadd’s first visit to New Zealand it was a debut performance from American saxophonist James Carter.
A concert of two halves then; Carter with the Big Band to start – followed by Gadd and the Kiwi gang and an encore piece featuring the two guests.
And it was celebratory right from the get-go. Carter is a magnificent musician, and a huge presence – he was funny and joyous and deeply involved in the music, he danced between solos, applauded band members for their efforts and just drank in the audience, spitting out a revelatory effort. His virtuosic talents saw him playing funk and bop-tinged pieces, and slowing right down for the majestic balladry of Monk’s ‘Round (About) Midnight.
I got the feeling that many in the audience were learning about Carter for the first time – he has a body of work they can now go away and absorb; he comes from a musical family (including cousin Regina Carter, a huge talent of course) and his work with his organ trio in particular is sublime.
But it really was about seeing master drummer Steve Gadd. It even said so on the ticket. Gadd was the drawcard.
He’s been on more records than any of us could ever own. A mighty presence across jazz and pop records for some 50 years with signature performances, his “Gaddisms”, appearing on records by Paul Simon, Steely Dan and Rickie Lee Jones and in performances with James Taylor, Chick Corea and now Rodger Fox and his Big Band.
Gadd has a way of driving the tunes and colouring on the side; he’s almost percussionist and drummer in one, particularly when he subverts samba with brushes or goes meringue with the cowbell and toms. There are spaces he creates and a separate conversation seems to happen between his bass drum, hi-hat and snare while an imagined fifth or sixth limb seems to move about the cymbals and toms.
There was material from his most recent and self-titled Steve Gadd Band album, including a Michael Landau composition called Auckland By Numbers.
As with Carter’s set Gadd moved between funk-shufflers and balladry, but what was most palpable was the energy he put across in support of the music, his own joy and his appreciation for Rodger and band. Here’s a guy that has played with everyone. I mean everyone. He’s been in feature films with Paul Simon, he was on the legendary Simon & Garfunkel reunion tour, he has played dynamic sets with Michel Petrucciani and Eric Clapton – has stories of being called in to sub for other leading drummer at the last minute or to overdub anyone else’s planned parts. And here he was in Palmerston North, in packed, intimate theatre and he was applauding every other featured player. He looked sincerely moved by the efforts of the band.
To that end Rodger Fox’s Big Band always does the work. They tour hard, they play with gusto but also with full sincerity and sympathy – and this was a real showcase for the band’s talents.
A chance then to see two master musicians – and neither disappointed. The respect shown to the band was a reminder that we should be even more appreciative of their efforts and of bandleader and concert promoter Rodger Fox.
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