Album Review of
At Blue Note Tokyo (Live)

Written by Joe Ross
April 3, 2021 - 2:53am EDT
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Recorded in December 2019 at Blue Note, Tokyo, this album features musicians in The Steve Gadd Band who had bonded while backing James Taylor on tour. Because they were spending so much time playing together, their wives suggested they make an instrumental album. Thus, the essential character of this live set is its special chemistry among friends. They were aware that they were onto something magical. This is the band’s fifth album project, and drummer Steve Gadd brings over five decades of experience to the relaxed groove At Blue Note Tokyo, with various pieces also composed by band members. He’s joined by Jimmy Johnson (bass), Walt Fowler (trumpet, flugelhorn), Kevin Hays (keyboards), and David Spinozza (guitar) sitting in for the band’s usual guitarist Michael Landau who wasn’t able to do the tour. Spinozza and Gadd go back a long ways, and I recall first hearing them together on David Sanborn’s well-received 1978 album, Heart to Heart. For this tour, the band even worked up a couple of Spinozza’s tunes, the bluesy “Hidden Drive” and expressive “Doesn’t She Know By Now.” I also enjoyed the funky “Rat Race,” a Latin-flavored “Timpanogos,” and soulful “Walk with Me” featuring keyboardist Hays’ vocals. For a different kind of groove, Gadd uses brushes on the spirited Crusaders anthem, “Way Back Home,” that gives all the band members plenty of room to strut their stuff. The album closes with a Gadd favorite, a shuffling blues arrangement of Bob Dylan’s “Watching the River Flow” with Hays’ vocals. It’s an engaging set with a coherent concept. Steve Gadd is at its center imparting a rhythmic intensity that’s full of groove, but everyone gets a piece of the action too. The band clearly had a lot of fun in Tokyo, and I thank them for sharing something that will make us all feel good.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)