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Lost Drumming Gems: Steve Gadd with The Manhattan Jazz Quintet

WHEN MJQ MEANS “Manhattan Jazz Quintet”

Most people think of MJQ as the Modern Jazz Quartet. Not me. For me, MJQ means The Manhattan Jazz Quintet, whose first album was released in 1984. The original line-up
of the band featured a ridiculously sick group of New York based jazz musicians:
Steve Gadd (ds), Eddie Gomez (bs), David Matthews (p), Lew Soloff (tp) and George
Young (sx).

The group was put together by Matthews, an in-demand session keyboardist, composer,
producer and arranger whose employers included James Brown and CTI Records among
many, many others.

Gadd appeared on 11 Manhattan Jazz Quintet albums between 1984 and 2008. In between
there have been multiple versions of the line-up, and other drummers in the band
have included Peter Erskine, Al Foster, and Dave Weckl (who played on the MJQ albums “Caravan,” “Face To Face,” and “Plays Blue Note,” all in the late ’80’s).

I’ve always loved Gadd’s straight ahead jazz playing, and once I heard his performances
with Chick Corea, I longed for more. But Steve’s career took a turn in a pop
direction (this is not a diss–it’s just a fact), and it seemed more and more
difficult to find him playing in this setting.

When a friend turned me onto these MJQ records, I was ecstatic. They had everything
I was looking for from Steve’s jazz drumming: aggression, finesse, extraordinary technique, a unique drum sound, a distinctive set of vocabulary, a marvelously fluid and swinging time feel, great solos, great solos, and did I mention that Steve takes great solos on these albums? I always loved how Steve seemed to have distilled Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Philly Joe Jones and Buddy Rich into his own creative sound.

Pssst….I love the 8’s that Steve takes on “Jordu,” from the 2nd album, “Autumn Leaves,” so I’ve transcribed them. I’ll post those shortly.

Gadd’s Discography with MJQ

Below is a list of Steve Gadd’s recorded output with The Manhattan Jazz Quintet. I
am most familiar with those MJQ albums made in the ’80s, and I highly recommend
them, although I would be surprised if any Gadd fans would be disappointed with any of these.

  1. “Manhattan Jazz Quintet” (1984)
  2. “Autumn Leaves” (1985)
  3. “My Funny Valentine” (1985)
  4. “Live At The Pit Inn” (1986)
  5. “The Sidewinder” (1986)
  6. “My Favorite Things: Live in Tokyo” (1987)
  7. “Live!” (1987)
  8. “Manhattan Blues” (1990)
  9. “Blues March” (1994)
  10. “Concierto do Arenjuez” (1996) (Gadd not on all tracks)
  11. “VSOP” (2008)

For More Information…

For more in-depth information about The Manhattan Jazz Quintet, check out the following links:

– Wikipedia http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Jazz_Quintet

– All Music Guide http://www.allmusic.com/artist/manhattan-jazz-quintet-p7034/biography

– David Matthews’ website http://www.davidmatthewsjazz.com/

I Want To Hear From YOU!

Do you agree with me? Do you disagree? Do you not care at all what I write? Whatever it is, please comment here on the blog or write to me and tell me what you think. Let’s talk.