5

Mark Masters: Everything You Did

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Bandleader/arranger Mark Masters has recorded a set of Steely Dan tunes with a big band, which can be set on the shelf next to his celebrated albums dedicated to the music of George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Dewey Redman. A Dan jazz album makes sense. It's clear from the rock band's '70s albums that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker warmly loved jazz: the intro to their hit "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" is lifted directly from pianist Horace Silver's "Song for My Father"; their "Parker's Band" is a sincere love letter to Charlie Parker. Several top-flight jazz players appeared on their records, among them saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Phil Woods.

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's sensitive solo. "Aja," meanwhile, is sped up and opens with an aggressive ensemble line.

And what a band! The athletic Tim Hagans 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's contributions are generally wordless, further removing these readings from the hyper- literate Bob Dylan/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 blues, providing the occasion for a blowing session. Special guest alto saxophonist Oliver Lake'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.

Title: Everything You Did | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Capri Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "The Long Slog" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Slog
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 11, 2017
Read "Peace" CD/LP/Track Review Peace
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 18, 2016
Read "Interlude: Atticus Live!-The Music of Jesse Lewis" CD/LP/Track Review Interlude: Atticus Live!-The Music of Jesse Lewis
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 29, 2016
Read "Out of Place" CD/LP/Track Review Out of Place
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 6, 2017
Read "Bekkenjordet" CD/LP/Track Review Bekkenjordet
by Troy Dostert
Published: April 15, 2017
Read "Unification" CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 12, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.