Jan 10, 2013
“…Mr. Fagen's music is a rich-textured, harmonically oblique amalgam of rock, jazz and soul. It is, in a word, music for grown-ups—with lyrics to match. What is especially interesting about Mr. Fagen, though, is that unlike most of his contemporaries, he has always made music for grown-ups. Steely Dan, the group that he co-founded with Walter Becker in 1972, never did go in for kid stuff, and doesn't now. Jazz heavies like Wayne Shorter and Phil Woods have long popped up from time to time on Steely Dan's albums, playing solos that don't sound even slightly out of place.” – Terry Teachout , “How to Be an Aging Rocker”, Wall Street Journal.
Do I need to say more? Perhaps just “happy birthday”, Donald, who turns 65 years old today. But OK, I will say a bit more.
My Dad, from whom I learned my appreciation of jazz, didn’t let me choose the music for family car rides unless it was something he could tolerate. From my music collection circa the Seventies, that meant I could listen to the Beatles, or the Moody Blues, or singer-songwriters like Paul Simon and James Taylor. One day, I slid Katy Lied into the cassette player. After ten minutes or so, my Dad said, “Who is this?”
“Steely Dan”, I said.
“OK. He’s pretty good.”
I didn’t have the heart to explain that it wasn’t a “he” but a “they”. And it didn’t really matter. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had another convert.
Based on this alone, I stand by the proposition that no band has done more to infuse jazz sensibilities into rock than Steely Dan. Whether they were writing tunes using jazz chords, making references to jazz classics in their tunes (“Mr. Parker’s Band”), or using jazz masters as session players, they were light years ahead of their contemporaries. They even covered Duke Ellington on the Pretzel Logic album.
So it seemed natural to salute Donald – who is still churning out significant music with and without Walter Becker – with a Podcast of jazz covers of tunes from either his solo albums or Steely Dan releases. Click here to enjoy Podcast 329, in which we cover the gamut of songs, including Donald’s self-proclaimed favorite jazz cover (Herbie Mann’s “Do It Again”) and Steely Dan’s acoustic version of “Chain Lightning” with Marian McPartland sitting in from her “Piano Jazz” show. Special thanks to Larry Grogan on the mighty Funky16Corners blog for getting me a track or two.
Frank Gambale – “F.M.” from The Royal Dan – A Tribute to The Genius of Steely Da
The Darcys – “Josie (Vol. 2)” from Aja.
Christian McBride Band – “Aja” from Sci-Fi
Charles Mann – “Do It Again” from Get Down with the Philly Sound (EP).
Wave Mechanic Union – “Dirty Work” from Further to Fly.
John Pizzarelli – “Walk Between the Raindrops” from Double Exposure.
Jay Graydon – “Home at Last” from The Royal Dan – A Tribute to The Genius of Steely Dan.
Woody Herman – “Kid Charlemagne” from Chick, Donald, Walter and Woodrow.
Patti Austin – “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)” from Street of Dreams.
Herbie Mann – “Do It Again” from Turtle Bay.
Roger Smith and Eddie M. – “Bad Sneakers” from No Static At All: An Instrumental Tribute to Steely Dan.
Marian McPartland with Steely Dan – “Chain Lightning” from Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz.