STUFF: Live At Montreux 1976 (Label: Eagle Vision DVD)

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STUFF: Live At Montreux 1976

Formed in 1976, Stuff was the collective name given to a slick R&B supergroup comprising five of New York’s hottest session musicians: namely Eric Gale and Cornell Dupree on guitars, pianist Richard Tee, bassist Gordon Edwards and drummer Steve Gadd. According to Edwards in the liner notes to this excellent new DVD, the Montreux footage is the only surviving film of the short-lived group that cut five LPs for Warner Bros. between 1976 and 1981. As this DVD reveals Stuff’s distinctive sound – a fluid amalgam of soul, jazz, funk, pop and gospel elements – relied heavily on the locomotive, church-infused piano playing of Richard Tee, whose driving, fiercely rhythmic blend of chords and octaves gave the resulting music a real sense of energy, purpose and propulsion. The frontline was provided by the bluesy yet contrasting twin guitars of Gale and Dupree, underpinned by the solid bass of Edwards and the deft, ultra-tight drums of Gadd. The group’s synergy and highly-developed sense of musical empathy is vividly captured here – also, their professionalism: the liners reveal that Stuff had literally just got off the tour bus when they delivered this sizzling performance (their plane had been delayed in London on the way over to Switzerland and they hadn’t even had time for a sound check). While this DVD is principally about enjoyment and providing a pleasurable experience for the eyes and ears of the music fan, it also has an educational dimension for some viewers – it offers a chance to glimpse some ultra-rare footage of some of the finest R&B session musicians in action: on my part, it was a big thrill just to see session stalwarts like Eric Gale and Richard Tee (who played on so many great soul records of the ’60s and ’70s) plying their trade. The band’s set begins with ‘Foots’ from their debut album and includes several other original numbers. But what really catches the ear is the group’s rendition of popular soul numbers – like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,’ and Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘That’s The Way Of The World’ – and a gospel medley fronted by deep-voiced singer, Odetta, that segues ‘Lift Every Voice & Sing’ with ‘Oh Happy Day.’ Another highlight is Stuff’s revamp of the old Dave Mason-penned Traffic number, ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ which Joe Cocker had a US hit with in the early ’70s. I can’t emphasise enough how utterly fantastic this DVD is – if you buy it, I’m sure you’ll agree wholeheartedly.
(CW) 4/5