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The Mark Masters Ensemble: Everything You Did: The Music of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (2014)

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The Mark Masters Ensemble: Everything You Did: The Music of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen Another tribute album from leader / arranger Mark Masters whose splendid ensemble has previously paid homage to trumpeter Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
, saxophonist Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
, trombonist Jimmy Knepper
Jimmy Knepper
Jimmy Knepper
1927 - 2003
trombone
and the Gershwin brothers (Porgy & Bess Redefined). This time around it's the music of Walter Becker
Walter Becker
Walter Becker
b.1950
guitar
and Donald Fagen
Donald Fagen
Donald Fagen
b.1948
keyboard
, better known by their collective name, Steely Dan
Steely Dan
Steely Dan
b.1972
band/orchestra
. The album, says Masters, is "a quartet recording with an ensemble," and said foursome is comprised of trumpeter Tim Hagans
Tim Hagans
Tim Hagans
b.1954
trumpet
, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper
Billy Harper
Billy Harper
b.1943
saxophone
, bassist Hamilton Price and drummer Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
. The ensemble, he writes, "is there to create colors for the soloists to respond to . . .," which it does efficiently on every number.

While opinions may vary about the music of Steely Dan, there's no doubt where Masters stands; he's squarely in their corner, and the arrangements, he notes, are designed to "free [their] music from the earthly confines, in some cases, of harmonic structure and allow the quartet . . . to create the magic that great improvisers birth." In doing so, he makes use of such varied instruments as the vibraphone, French horn, bass clarinet, bassoon, English horn and alto flute to lend the music an ethereal and exotic veneer, adding to the mix the sympathetic voice of Anna Mjoll
Anna Mjoll
Anna Mjoll

vocalist
on "Charlie Freak" and "Black Cow." Harper fashions a consentient solo on "Freak," and bass clarinetist Brian Williams does likewise on "Cow."

Elsewhere, Becker and Fagen's compositions, while arguably less than memorable on their own, serve as reliable points of departure for the ensemble and soloists. Nowhere is this more evident than on the tranquil ballad "Fire in the Hole," whose enticing alto solo by Gary Foster
Gary Foster
Gary Foster
b.1936
reeds
is among the album's highlights. "Fire" is followed by the light-hearted "Kings," on which the quartet takes no prisoners, the relatively well-known "AJA" (from Steely Dan's album of that name) and blues-based shuffle "Chain Lightning," enhanced by Don Shelton's alto sax and earnest solos by Price, trombonist Ryan Dragon, alto Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake
b.1942
saxophone
and baritone Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
b.1956
sax, baritone
(who offers another strong statement on "Do It Again," which also showcases Gene Cipriano and Sonny Simmons
Sonny Simmons
Sonny Simmons
b.1933
sax, alto
on English horn and bassoonist John Mitchell).

Whatever the theme, Masters and the ensemble always deliver the goods, and the music of Steely Dan has probably never sounded better than it does here.


Track Listing: Show Biz Kids; Bodhisattva; Do It Again; Charlie Freak; Black Cow; Josie; Fire in the Hole; Kings; AJA; Chain Lightning.

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

Record Label: Capri Records


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