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Drummer Gadd delivers birthday present to fans

| Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, 8:15 p.m.

‘70 Strong'

The Steve Gadd Band (BFM Jazz)

Drummer Steve Gadd has found a good way to celebrate his 70th birthday, with the album “70 Strong.” The quintet effort presents the funky jazz Gadd has been a part for decades. From his days with Randy Brecker, Richard Tee and Michael McDonald, Gadd has been laying down patterns from his kit that are inventive, with a heavy dose of funk. That mix shows clearly on this album's “Freedom Jazz Dance,” a classic by Eddie Harris. The band does the tune with a slightly slower sense of groove than most. Eight of the 11 tunes on the disc were written by the members of the group. They include the ballad “Written in Stone,” which features keyboard player Larry Goldings on accordion. Gadd and Goldings have worked together touring with James Taylor. The band also features guitarist Michael Landau, trumpeter Walt Fowler and bassist Jimmy Johnson.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Turboprop'

Ernesto Cervini (Anzic)

Drummer Ernesto Cervini wears the label for “Turboprop,” but it is the work of the group and a broad-reaching bit of music that makes the album a success. The drums of Cervini, brother of singer Amy Cervini, stand out constantly and he wrote five of the 10 tracks on the release. They range from the forward-looking “Unnecessary Mountain” to a gentle “Mother Theresa,” which opens like a horn chorale of tenor-sax star Joel Frahm, alto player Tara Davidson and trombonist William Carn. The album includes Charlie Parker's “Red Cross” and “The Engulfed Cathedral,” a Claude Debussy piano piece turned into a jazz sextet offering. It also includes “Cheer Up Charlie,” a Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley number Cervini says he sings for his son when times are rough. Besides the great tunes, the band's performances, particularly those of the horn players, are excellent. That work is expected of Frahm, who seems like everyone's favorite sideman, but Davidson adds a pleasant, light voice.

— Bob Karlovits

‘If You're Reading This It's Too Late'

Drake (Cash Money)

Drake and his talent are no joke, and the Grammy winner's surprise album, “If You're Reading This It's Too Late,” dares critics to say otherwise. Released six years to the day that Drake debuted his super-successful “So Far Gone” mixtape, the Toronto native's latest set finds him in a serious space, not asking for respect, but demanding it.

As usual, he's bragging about his crown (see: opening track “Legend”) but brooding over its weight (“No Tellin'”). Compared to previous projects, though, “If You're Reading This” is darker and grittier, with a mix of lyrics and tone, that Drake, his longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib and crew have no doubt fashioned to match the brutal cold of Toronto.

The set is as much about the rapper's hometown as it is about his hometown crew, whose Canadian and Jamaican accents distinguish the music and whose names are strewn throughout standout track “Know Yourself.”

On another gem, “You & the 6,” Drake credits Toronto and his mother for raising him. But the message is far from saccharine. “I got no friends in this, mama,” Drake raps about the business. “I don't pretend with this, mama. I don't joke with this, mama. I pull the knife out my back and cut they throat with it, mama.”

— Associated Press

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