Denny Seiwell has the distinction of being the very first drummer Paul McCartney chose to work with after the breakup of The Beatles. Seiwell drummed on McCartney’s 1971 classic, Ram, and subsequently joined Wings. Not only was he the drummer for the Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway albums (’71 and ’73, respectively), he also performed on such hit singles as “Hi, Hi, Hi” and “Live and Let Die.” Though he left Wings in ’73 prior to the recording of Band on the Run, playing with McCartney is hardly Seiwell’s only claim to fame. A veteran session drummer, Seiwell has racked up an impressive roster of credits over the years, including dates with artists ranging from James Brown (Get on the Good Foot) to Liza Minnelli (Tropical Nights).
Seiwell started out as a jazz drummer, and he has returned to his roots with Reckless Abandon. Credited to the Denny Seiwell Trio, the album was recorded with John Chiodini on guitar and Joe Bagg on Hammond B-3 organ. These three guys really click, locking into some great jazz grooves. Of special interest for McCartney fans are five inventive reworkings of tunes written by Seiwell’s former Wings bandleader. Three of them come from Seiwell’s time with McCartney, but two didn’t originally feature him behind the kit. A relentless work-out on the 1980 Number One hit “Coming Up” proves the trio’s ability to adapt pop music to the more harmonically complex realm of jazz. “Every Night” is recast as a light-as-air, Latin-tinged ballad with quicksilver guitar runs and itchy, kinetic drum fills.
The other McCartney tunes are decidedly more obscure. Whatever one might say about the lyrics of 1971’s “Bip Bop,” the song works great as a bluesy, mid-tempo jazz instrumental. Bagg’s organ really cooks on this one. Also originally from Wings’ Wild Life, “Dear Friend” was a ballad to begin with but Seiwell and company slow it down even further. Recast as a moody, after hours meditation, “Dear Friend” is a standout performance on Reckless Abandon. Perhaps most adventurous is the album closing “Loup (1st Indian on the Moon),” certainly one of the more obscure McCartney compositions, and already an instrumental to begin with. The trio stretches out on this one, turning it into something resembling a great, lost modal classic that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lou Bennett album.
But it’s not just McCartney songs that the trio tackles. Seiwell stays in pocket for a funky “Cantaloupe Island,” with itchy rhythm work by Chiodini that helps keep the oft-played Herbie Hancock classic sounding fresh. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Favela” provides a nice change of pace with an energetic run through this bossa nova classic. I’m not sure about the origin of “Opting for the Yorn,” but it’s a terrifically relaxed soul-jazz gem. Chiodini’s guitar improvisation hits a real peak on this particular tune.
All in all, Reckless Abandon is a highly satisfying return to Denny Seiwell’s jazz roots. The album is available on iTunes or through Seiwell’s official website.