Producers: Terry Shand & Geoff Kempin
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo
Length: 62 minutes
Stuff was a nearly legendary jazz-funk band from the mid-seventies that featured guitarists Eric Gale and Cornell Dupree, bassist Gordon Edwards, drummer extraordinaire Steve Gadd and keyboardist Richard Tee. All five members were seasoned and highly sought after session musicians, and individually, they played on a veritable who’s who of pop, rock and soul albums from the 60s thru the 80s, including work for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Paul Simon, Billy Joel and Steely Dan. In between their ongoing session work, they toured as a group and recorded five albums. This film of their 1976 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival has never been available publicly, and documents an event revered by anyone in attendance. The liner notes include a segment written by singer/actor Chris Rea, who stumbled onto the Stuff video in a Montreux bar, and somehow managed to get a copy of it, which he swears was the only one in the entire world, and moves him to tears every time he watches it.
This performance took place not long after the group had formed, and contains a few originals, but mostly contains songs that are either personal favorites of the band members, or songs that they’d played on as session musicians. Their individual talent as musicians is undeniable, and they achieve a truly phenomenal groove as a collective. Guitarists Gale and Dupree trade deliciously rhythmic solos, while drummer Steve Gadd – who’s appeared in more than 600 sessions, including the classic Steely Dan albums Aja and Gaucho – hammers away at the skins throughout the set and alleviates any mystery as to why he’s always been so heavily in demand. And Richard Tee’s extremely jazz-influenced keyboards are always superbly lyrical throughout. One of the many highlights comes from the medley “Lift Every Voice/Oh Happy Day,” when the band is joined on stage by the equally legendary Odetta, who provides a vocal as the individual musicians tear through one fiery solo after another. [Really? I thought it was some amateur they invited to do a number with them! She almost wrecked the concert, getting one of the guitarists entangled in her mike cable as she entered, and singing while holding the mike miles away from her mouth…Ed.]
Technically, the film suffers from its obvious thirty-plus-year-old video origins, and the image quality is not particularly clear throughout most of the film. The sound quality, however, is much, much better; the DTS 5.1 option was particularly enveloping and enjoyable. In light of the rather rare nature of this performance – not to mention its historical significance, as it’s the only film I’m aware of that documents the band’s existence – there’s very little room left to quibble with the details. Recommended, not only to fans of the group, but to anyone interested in a really entertaining jazz-funk-rock performance that will totally prove why these guys were so very much in demand.
— Tom Gibbs