Donald Fagen's third solo CD, his first such recording in thirteen years, blends jazz, soul, funk and just about every other musical influence you can name on nine new songs whose subject matter runs the gamut. The eclectic songs on Morph The Cat cover some interesting topics: a romantic interlude with an airport security guard ("Security Joan"); a conversation with the ghost of the late Ray Charles ("What I Do"); mortality ("Brite Nightgown"); and a cult taking over the US government, leaving us with the harsh reality of the world we now live in ("Mary Shut The Garden Door"). Interestingly, this song was written after the Republican National Convention ran roughshod through Manhattan.
Morph The Cat is highlighted by the unique vision and storytelling that Fagen has perfected over the past 35 years. It sounds more like Steely Dan than either of Fagen's two previous solo excursions. The first single, "H Gang," has the chord changes and horn arrangements that Steely Dan fans have grown to know, love and expect.
Morph The Cat is a carefully constructed and arranged song cycle that is more textured, detailed and intricate than it first appears. Fagen delivers his usual sophisticated mélange of out-there lyrics, both vivid and haunting, creating both an audio tapestry and a remarkable theater of the mind. The music is so cool and vibrant that the only real way to hear the disc is to find the dual-disc version, turn off all the lights, turn up the volume and play the DVD side. This CD screams to be listened to in high-resolution audio and 5.1 Surround Sound.
This recording is essential listening for fans of progressive jazz vocalists whose arrangements incorporate the essence of the American musical art formjazz, gospel, blues, rock and pop.
Track Listing: Morph the Cat; H Gang; What I Do; Brite Nightgown; The Grand Pagoda of Funn; Security Joan;
The Night Belongs to Mona; Mary Shut the Garden Door; Morph the Cat (reprise).
Personnel: Donald Fagen: Fender piano, piano, organ, melodica solo (8), vocals, backup vocals; Keith
Carlock: drums; Freddie Washington: bass guitar, Harlan Post Jr.: acoustic bass; Brian
Montgomery: remedial bass guitar (9); Jon Herington: guitar, guitar solos (1, 2), chorus
solo (9); Wayne Krantz: guitar, guitar solos (4,5); Hugh McCracken: guitar (1-3,9); Frank
Vignola: guitar (1), tag guitar solo (9); Ken Emerson: guitar (3); Ken Wessel: guitar solo (6);
Phonus Quaver: vibes and marimba (1,9), marimba (4), vibes (5,8); Ted Baker: piano (2,5),
whirly piano (3,6), Fender piano (7,8); Marvin Stamm (trumpet; Walt Weiskopf: tenor
saxophone, tenor saxophone solo (1,2), alto saxophone (4); Mark Patterson: trombone;
Lawrence Feldman: clarinet (2), tenor saxophone (4,5), flute (7); Roger Rosenberg: baritone
saxophone, bass clarinet; Gordon Gottlieb: percussion (2,4,6-8); Bashiri Johnson:
percussion (4); Joe Pasaro: percussion (5); Jerry Barnes: backup vocals (1,5,9); Michael
Harvey: backup vocals (1,6,9); Amy Helm: backup vocals (3); Carolyn Leonhart: backup
vocals (3,8); Cindy Mizelle: backup vocals (3); Howard Levy: harmonica (7), harmonica solo
(3); Illinois Elohainu: flute (8).
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.