Mark Masters: Everything You Did (2013)

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Mark Masters: Everything You Did
Bandleader/arranger Mark Masters has recorded a set of Steely Dan
Steely Dan
Steely Dan
b.1972
band/orchestra
tunes with a big band, which can be set on the shelf next to his celebrated albums dedicated to the music of George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin
1898 - 1937
composer/conductor
, Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
and Dewey Redman
Dewey Redman
Dewey Redman
b.1931
sax, tenor
. A Dan jazz album makes sense. It's clear from the rock band's '70s albums that Donald Fagen
Donald Fagen
Donald Fagen
b.1948
keyboard
and Walter Becker
Walter Becker
Walter Becker
b.1950
guitar
warmly loved jazz: the intro to their hit "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" is lifted directly from pianist Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
's "Song for My Father"; their "Parker's Band" is a sincere love letter to Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
. Several top-flight jazz players appeared on their records, among them saxophonists Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
and Phil Woods
Phil Woods
Phil Woods
b.1931
sax, alto
.

At the same time, most of the self-consciously jazzy elements of Steely Dan's music could be best described as examples of the justly- disparaged "smooth jazz." It's a mark of the band's characteristically sloppy multi-layered ironies that they seemed to parody smooth jazz even as they genuinely dug playing the smooth jazz. So a jazz treatment of their music could be more tricky than it first appears, especially for a serious guy like Masters. How does he handle it?

On the aural evidence of this thoroughly enjoyable record, Masters has no idea that Steely Dan loved jazz. Of course he must, but the record treats the material like a bunch of solid rock 'n' roll songs that have to be taken apart and carefully put back together before the likes of this ensemble can play them. And that's fine.

As such, Masters makes almost no concessions to the original sound of the songs. "Charlie Freak," for example, a tighty-wound, vaguely classical number in the Dan original, is remade into a slow-breathing film noir, enlivened by tenor saxophonist Billy Harper
Billy Harper
Billy Harper
b.1943
saxophone
's sensitive solo. "Aja," meanwhile, is sped up and opens with an aggressive ensemble line.

And what a band! The athletic Tim Hagans
Tim Hagans
Tim Hagans
b.1954
trumpet
on trumpet shines throughout, playing a bit outside the fairly straight-ahead vibe that predominates on the record. Other players have fewer moments in the limelight, but do not squander them—like bass clarinetist Brian Williams on the funky "Black Cow." The real star is the sumptuous Persian carpet of Masters' ensemble writing for the brass and reeds, subtly accented by Brad Dutz' vibes. Vocalist Anna Mjoll
Anna Mjoll
Anna Mjoll

vocalist
's contributions are generally wordless, further removing these readings from the hyper- literate Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
b.1941
composer/conductor
/William S. Burroughs-style lyrics of the originals.

"Chain Lightning"—a marvelous blues in the Dan version—is played straight, like an early-'50s Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
blues, providing the occasion for a blowing session. Special guest alto saxophonist Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake
b.1942
saxophone
's solo stands out particularly on this closing cut.

Masters' approach is squarely in the big-band tradition, marked by polished craftsmanship and consistently strong solos—but not at all by the arch hipness of Steely Dan. And that too is fine. His thorough- going re-imagining of this material lays bare how un-jazzy, in a way, the Steely Dan songs were. Maybe there is, subtly, just a little of Steely Dan's wry smirk in there.

Track Listing: Show Biz Kids; Bodhisattva; Do It Again; Charlie Freak; Black Cow; Josie; Fire In The Hole; Kings; Aja; Chain Lightning.

Personnel: Tim Hagans: trumpet; Louis Fasman: trumpet; Les Lovitt: trumpet; Stephanie O'Keefe: French horn; Sonny Simmons: English horn (3); Dave Woodley: trombone (9); Les Benedict: trombone; Dave Ryan: trombone; Ryan Dragon: trombone; Oliver Lake: alto saxophone (10); Gary Foster: alto saxophone (7); Don Shelton: alto and soprano saxophones, alto flute; Billy Harper: tenor saxophone; John Mitchell: tenor saxophone, bassoon; Gene Cipriano: tenor saxophone; Brian Williams: bass clarinet; Brad Dutz: vibes, percussion; Hamilton Price: bass; Peter Erskine: drums; Anna Mjöll: voice; Mark Masters: arrangements.

Record Label: Capri Records


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