Happy Birthday: My Pivotal Moments with Steve Gadd

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Steve Gadd circa 1978

SKF NOTE: A belated happy birthday to Steve Gadd. Paraphrasing bassist Ron Carter when asked how Elvin Jones changed drumming: Listen to drummers before Steve Gadd hit the scene and listen to drummers after.

There are many excellent pop and jazz recordings and videos of Steve Gadd’s drumming. The pivotal Steve Gadd cuts in my life — and the reasons why — are as follows:

Chuck Mangione St. Thomas (1972): Loads of musical (key word: musical) chops from Steve Gadd on a four-piece drumset. Plus a heavy dose of What the heck is he playing? which is always fun.

Bob James Night on Bald Mountain (1974): I was living in Davenport, Iowa, working for the first time as a full-time drummer when I bought Bob James’s One album. Steve Gadd’s playing on Bald Mountain scared me, letting me know I still had much to learn.

Mike Mainieri Love Play (1974): Nice overall album. Steve Gadd and the rest of the band build slowly, tastefully over nine minutes to a killer crescendo. Still a great song, IMO. Oh, and putting this post together this morning, hearing this song for the first time in a long time, I said, “Ah ha! So that’s where that little riff I whistle and hum all the time comes from.”

Joe Cocker Catfish (1976): Steve Gadd as minimalist, playing exactly the right sounds — and no more. A perfect musical interpretation. And it shows Steve — with tons of technique — has the musical maturity to use it only when necessary.

Again, Happy Birthday, Dr. Gadd.

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