The tragic death of Princess Diana reminded everyone of the impact a single person can have, and in turn, Elton John's moving tribute at her funeral reflected the great role music can play as emotional catharsis. Tribute to Jeff by David Garfield & Friends achieves that for all those who participated, but is in many ways the antithesis of the rewritten "Candle in the Wind," vigorously celebrating the life of multiple Grammy-winning drummer and first-call L.A. session cat Jeff Porcaro rather than choosing to mourn the tragedy of his early death in 1992 at age 38. Though best known for his skinwork in the pop supergroup Toto, Porcaro's influence on the music scene ranged beyond the light pop/rock the band was known for; he grew up on jazz and his diverse timekeeping skills were tapped by everyone from Boz Scaggs, Bruce Springsteen, and Don Henley to Stan Getz and Larry Carlton. He was also the backbone of the longstanding L.A. club-hopping band Los Lobotomys, the fusion-oriented '80s and early-'90s answer to Tom Scott & the L.A. Express featuring pianist Garfield and Toto member Steve Lukather on guitar (Joe Sample would occasionally sit in on second keyboard). In his two decades on the scene, Porcaro made a wealth of friends from all genres, ranging from hard rock to soul, blues, and straight-ahead jazz. Garfield, a veteran of the L.A. scene known for his long-term stint as George Benson's musical director, recalls his late friend as "the ultimate team player, never a forefront kind of guy, with a special camaraderie with musicians." As ringleader, arranger, and producer of the project, as well as lead performer, Garfield succeeds in capturing that sort of ensemble spirit. With 75 musicians participating, the pianist faced a four-month logistical nightmare of studio schedule-crunching in L.A., Nashville, and New York, but, using Porcaro as a muse (by virtue of lighting candles and occasionally playing cassettes of the guest of honor's interviews), Garfield & Friends pull off the ultimate wake, a remarkably all-encompassing, frequently unpredictable overview that, well, Porcaro would have doubtless killed to play on.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran