Jul 31, 2013
The jazz-tinged sounds of Steely Dan have inspired a number of musicians to celebrate their catalogue over the years. At least three all-star jazz tribute albums (The Royal Dan, No Static At All and AKA) are in print, along with The Hoops McCann Band Plays the Music of Steely Dan. Now we have the Mark Masters Ensemble’s Everything You Did (The Music of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen) to eclipse them all.
Big band legend Woody Herman arranged a handful of Walter Becker-Donald Fagen compositions for his Chick. Donald, Walter and Woodrow album in 1978, maybe the best interpretations of tunes from the Steely Dan canon up to now. The Masters Ensemble – a band which not coincidentally would feature baritone sax legend Gary Smulyan, then a young player in the Thundering Herd – takes things to another level
Masters doesn’t arrange these tunes – he deconstructs them into fabulously new and different material. He leads a band that includes Billy Harper on tenor sax; Tim Hagans on trumpet; Smulyan on baritone sax; Hamilton Price on bass; and Peter Erskine on drums. Individually they are capable of some killer solos – Price on “Kings”, Hagans on “Show Biz Kids”, Smulyan on “Do It Again” – and collectively, they take these songs places that the Dan never imagined.
As a life-long Steely Dan aficionado, I can honestly say I was reaching for the liner notes to determine exactly what song the Ensemble was playing at times, so great is the re-arranging and re-imagining of these venerable tunes. That’s exactly what makes Everything You Did so challenging, and ultimately rewarding for the listener who takes the time to truly hear what this group is laying down. Bravo.