Yoshi's Jazz Club
Few drummers have had such an illustrious career as Steve Gadd. While the Grateful Web tends to naturally gravitate towards genre-bending, multifarious players, Gadd’s range of original work and cache of collaborations are strikingly diverse. From Simon and Garfunkle’s famed 1981 Concert in Central Park reunion, to Steely Dan’s legendary recording “Aja,” to more recent stints with Eric Clapton and James Taylor, his session portfolio alone is enough to drool over. But Gadd is much more than the man behind the kit.
Any jazz aficionado who acknowledges the significance of the fusion movement beginning in the late 1960s would cite bands like Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and George Duke as prominent architects of the sub-genre. What do all of these legendary groups have in common? Drummer Billy Cobham. He’s unquestionably the finest living drummer from that period, one who took risks playing in groups outside of the “certifiable” jazz community.
Jazz music in always inherently evolving, while some players possess the sheer talent to spontaneously create dynamic music, less often does an artist utilize their abilities as a vessel to express emotions beyond their own familiarity. One could see pianist Hiromi Uehara and value her shear musical talent alone. More avid listeners know there’s more to it than that. Her music truly transcends emotion. The Japanese pianist began training at age six and by the time Hiromi moved to the U.S.
Rarely does a jazz guitarist take risks in blending as many different sensibilities as Oz Noy. By his late teens and early twenties in Israel, he was a respected studio guitarist, collaborator and bandleader. He broke onto the New York club scene in 1996 and since has collaborated with the best of cats. In a time where artists are overly cautious about fitting in, Noy’s style is truly like none other. He’s built an impressive following doing his own moves.
Few jazz guitarists have led a career of both diversity and longevity as Mike Stern. Though he earned his professional chops as part of the mid 1970s lineup of Blood, Sweat, and Tears, he really came to shine alongside some of the true jazz giants such as Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, and Jaco Pastorius. His ease in blending a range of styles through powerfully chorused interactive pedal effects has gained him worldwide recognition.
It’s easy to cringe when somebody asks the music question, “Who is the best [fill-in-the-blank] player ever?” Opinions are opinions. But really, Stanley Clarke was, has been, and will always be the finest jazz bass player. Some would argue in favor of the alternative orchestral brilliance of Charles Mingus or the bewildering fretless arrangements of Jaco Pastorious, but its Clarke’s longevity and vastly diverse ventures as bandleader and sideman put him right up top.