Superior jazz funk fusion...
In these celebrity obsessed times it seems almost quaint to look back and remember a time when a band like Stuff held sway. For here was the crème de la crème of session players working up some mighty grooves in the unlikely context of borrowed gear, and without time for a sound check at the Montreux jazz festival. Then again if ever there was a band who could effortlessly cope with such adversity, Stuff was the band.
Stuff was the kind of band who at any moment during the course of an understated set could raise the bar to such heights and seemingly with such little effort that many of their contemporaries would simply slip away and reassess their own chops! For the initiated the line-up of Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale on guitars, drummer Steve Gadd and founder Gordon Edwards on bass and keyboard Richard Tee were all giants in their respective fields and virtuoso players of their chosen instrument. All achieved a modicum of commercial success with solo success in the 70's and provided the very best jazz/rock fusion and soulful grooves of the era.
As this inspired performance shows coming together collectively as Stuff, the band jammed their way through some super soulful, gospel inspired grooves with several spine tingling moments never far from the surface.
But to go back to the beginning this is a superstar band with no front man superstar, a classic case of the sum of equal parts inspiring the other. Steve Gadd's first drum solo comes early but acts as the perfect bridge between the classic Steve Wonder soul outing 'Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours' and the band's own subsequent mighty funky jam on which Richard Tee steps into the spotlight to play some killer two handed lines.
The audience response is initially restrained but quickly moves to full throttle appreciation and by the time of a delightful Cornell Dupree and Richard Tee led funky cover of Dave Mason's 'Feelin Alright' the music is joyful, though you wouldn't know that by the expression of the band themselves! Nonetheless, Eric Gale goes on to pick out the theme on a delightful solo full of delicate toned phrasing and beautiful restrained vibrato.
On the gospel 'Oh Happy Day', the band work up a real head of steam and perhaps only Odetta's emotive vocals and welcome smile could have topped Stuff's own collective dynamic.
By the end of an inspired set, the band's curious sullen demeanour is matched only by a bored blonde at the front who appears in splendid isolated counterpoint to the rest of the rapturously cheering crowd.
The first of a three encore finale features the piano led, cover of Billy Preston's aptly titled 'You Are So Beautiful'. If you thought Joe Cocker's version was unbeatable, check this out; This DVD comes full recommended right down to the excellent double liner notes from both Gordon Edwards and big fan Chris Rae and purchasers of the CD get a bonus track in the form of 'It's Your Thing'.
Review by Pete Feenstra