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Steely Dan

Steely Dan has been more of a conceptual framework for inventive music-making than a typical rock band. Spearheaded by a pair of resourceful musical auteurs Donald Fagen and Walter Becker - they have done nothing by the books since launching Steely Dan in 1972. The band’s very name is a scatological reference from a novel by Beat Generation anti-hero William Burroughs. Though Steely Dan recorded prolifically for much of the Seventies, they toured for only a brief spell early in that decade, deciding they much preferred the studio to the road. This allowed them to craft a wry, nuanced and hyper-literate series of albums - seven in all, released from 1972 to 1980 - that are highly regarded by connoisseurs of pop hooks, jazz harmony and desiccating wit.

Beneath the highly polished surface of Steely Dan’s music, astute listeners could hear a visceral love of and identification with the very soul of jazz. Fagen and Becker referenced Duke Ellington, Stan Getz and Horace Silver at least as much as any rock-oriented source material. Even so, there was a certain accessible quality to songs like “Reelin’ in the Years,” “Do It Again” and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” that allowed Steely Dan to connect with rock fans, especially those who were college-aged and "educated.

Co-founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met in 1967 while attending Bard College in upstate New York. After serving as touring musicians with Jay and the Americans and trying their hand as staff songwriters, they formed Steely Dan in Los Angeles as an outlet for a growing backlog of offbeat, original material that no one else seemed inclined to record. In the beginning, Steely Dan was an actual band with a lineup of Fagen, Becker, guitarists Denny Dias and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and drummer Jim Hodder. This configuration cut the albums Can’t Buy a Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic. Though Dias remained on board through 1977’s Aja, Steely Dan were almost completely Fagen and Becker’s fiefdom by the time of Katy Lied, their fourth album.

On record, the duo recruited the cream of L.A.’s jazz-pop studio scene, including Michael McDonald, Victor Feldman, Jeff Porcaro, David Paich, and jazz stalwarts like David Sanborn, Tom Scott, Michael Brecker, Larry Carlton, Chuck Rainey, Bernard Purdie, Phil Woods and Wayne Shorter. Producer- engineer Gary Katz, who worked on every album through 1980’s Gaucho, was a vital member of the Steely Dan brain trust whose input was critical to the perfectionist, audiophile quality of the group’s recordings. The A-list musicians provided a glossy top coat to Steely Dan’s agreeably sleek music - an ironic vehicle for their cutting, urbane and often black-humored lyrics.

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Book Review

Nightfly: The Life of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen by Peter Jones

Read "Nightfly: The Life of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen by Peter Jones" reviewed by Doug Collette


Nightfly: The Life of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen by Peter Jones Peter Jones 368 pages ISBN: #978-1641606875 Chicago Review Press 2022 In his introduction to Nightfly: The Life of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, author Peter Jones could hardly have drawn a more clear outline for his biography of Steely Dan's co-founder. As a result, it only stands to reason that Fagen's late creative partner and friend Walter Becker makes his first appearance around ...

3
Radio & Podcasts

Sisters from Another Jazz Mother? Part 2

Read "Sisters from Another Jazz Mother? Part 2" reviewed by Ludovico Granvassu


You know how scientists say that, statistically, every person has roughly six look-alikes around the world? Well the same seems to be true in the music world, where one can find quite a few songs that appear to be sound-alikes of other compositions we're familiar with... This does not have to be necessarily the result of plagiarism but can often be the outcome of the fact that certain melodies can enter a musician's brain and come back out later in ...

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So You Don't Like Jazz

Discovering Jazz through Pretzel Logic

Read "Discovering Jazz through Pretzel Logic" reviewed by Alan Bryson


It's a good bet that most of us have heard people say they don't like jazz, or even worse, drop the H-bomb, “I hate jazz." If you choose to engage, the key is to tread lightly and tailor an approach that considers the tastes and sensibilities of the other person. The “So You Don't Like Jazz" column explores ways to do just that. Steely Dan If you dig down in the music collection of many people who claim ...

6
What is Jazz?

Cold Fusion: The Search for the Jazz/Rock Unicorn, Part 2

Read "Cold Fusion: The Search for the Jazz/Rock Unicorn, Part 2" reviewed by Kurt Ellenberger


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 Part 2: Steely Dan's AjaI ended the first part of this series with the question that prompted these articles: “Why is there so little music that genuinely fuses two styles together and does so in a way that maintains the integrity of the stylistic contributors?" I could have phrased in differently by asking a closely related question: “Why is there so little fusion music that is accepted as authentic by ...

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Highly Opinionated

Why Steely Dan Can Never Really Be Yacht Rock

Read "Why Steely Dan Can Never Really Be Yacht Rock" reviewed by Eric Pettine


The website Really Smooth Music provides the definition of the term Yacht Rock as being “a variation of popular Soft Rock that peaked between the years of 1976 and 1984 (as featuring a) highly polished brand of soft rock that emanated from Southern California during the late '70s and early '80s. The term is meant to suggest the kind of smooth, mellow music that early yuppies likely enjoyed while sipping champagne and snorting cocaine on their yachts." This sounds like ...

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Live Review

Doobie Brothers/Steely Dan at Blossom Music Center

Read "Doobie Brothers/Steely Dan at Blossom Music Center" reviewed by C. Andrew Hovan


The Doobie Brothers & Steely Dan-The Summer of Living Dangerously Tour Blossom Music Center Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio June 23, 2018 If there is one tried and true adage that is applicable to the arts, it is the one that goes “everything old is new again." Be it a need for monetary sustenance, a love of touring, or a little bit of both, we have seen an increase in the number of summer tours featuring iconic ...

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Live Review

Steely Dan at Blossom Music Center

Read "Steely Dan at Blossom Music Center" reviewed by C. Andrew Hovan


Steely Dan Blossom Music Center Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio July 28, 2015 Back in April, Steely Dan got the busses loaded up for their semi regular touring season that included a few nights at Coachella. July 6th then brought forth the official summer tour, with twenty-three dates set through the middle of August. Billed as the “Rockabye Gollie Angel" tour, whatever the hell that means, The Dan brought its travelling minstrel show to Blossom Music Center ...

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2

Book / Magazine

Nightfly - Biography of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen Available Now on Chicago Review Press

Nightfly - Biography of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen Available Now on Chicago Review Press

Source: All About Jazz

September this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first record by Steely Dan, the band formed by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in 1972 that went on to release nine albums over the 30 years that followed. Now Chicago Review Press is publishing Nightfly: the Life of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen by music journalist and author Peter Jones. The book is a warts-and-all account that not only relates the often-untold stories behind one of rock’s most iconic bands, but ...

1

Music Industry

Steely Dan: Black Friday

Steely Dan: Black Friday

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Adding the word “black" to a day of the week began in September 1869, after Jay Gould and James Fisk tried to corner the gold market. Prices plunged, wealthy investors lost money and the day became known in the press as Black Friday. After the stock market crashed on October 24, 1929, newspapers referred to the day in its coverage as Black Thursday. Five days later, when the largest single number of shares were traded in stock-market history, newspapers called ...

Music Industry

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen Just Doesn’t Get It (Unless He Does?)

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen Just Doesn’t Get It (Unless He Does?)

Source: HypeBot

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen was recently quoted griping about how he is no longer making enough money from his recorded music, and although it's hard to feel too badly for someone as financially successful as Fagen, his frustration does provide us with an interesting snapshot of music revenue overtime. Guest post by William Paterson University Professor David Philp from Musicbiz 101 When a multi-millionaire complains that he’s not making enough money anymore, it’s hard to feel sorry for him.  When that multi-millionaire complains out ...

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Recording

Steely Dan: Deacon Blues

Steely Dan: Deacon Blues

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Among the most arch and enigmatic composers of the post-Vietnam War era are Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Together, they are Steely Dan, and their songs depict hard-luck stories of eccentrics, weirdos and outcasts. What makes their characters and predicaments sympathetic is the jazz-influenced music that lends sophistication and drama to the tales. It's a mood thing that somehow unites the musical approaches of Ray Charles and Horace Silver. For this Friday's Wall Street Journal (up online now here), I ...

Event

KCC Productions Presents Steely Dan's "Gaucho" At Sunrise Civic Center

KCC Productions Presents Steely Dan's "Gaucho" At Sunrise Civic Center

Source: Kimberly C Chmura

The City of Sunrise and KCC Productions present the music of Steely Dan, performed by “Gaucho,” as part of the “Sunrise at Sunset” jazz series at the Sunrise Civic Center Amphitheater, March 8 at 7 PM. Admission is free. Gaucho takes its name from an album done by Steely Dan, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers who helped define the soundtrack of the '70s. Is it jazz? Rock? Fusion? Acid? Metal?—-Whatever you call it the level of musicianship is at ...

1

Performance / Tour

John McLaughlin, Steely Dan, Phil Lesh, Miles Davis, James Taylor Sidemen Form New Touring Band - The Ringers

John McLaughlin, Steely Dan, Phil Lesh, Miles Davis, James Taylor Sidemen Form New Touring Band - The Ringers

Source: Abstract Logix

Los Angeles, CA: Talk about one of the most amazing group of musicians playing together, debuting in early 2013 – they are THE RINGERS featuring three top notch Rock-Blues Guitarists Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic, The Dead, Phil Lesh) Wayne Krantz (Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, Michael Brecker), Michael Landau (James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis) , drummer Keith Carlock (Sting, Steely Dan, John Mayer) and bassist Etienne Mbappe (John McLaughlin, Ray Charles, Joe Zawinul). This super-group of talent, with such varying ...

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Performance / Tour

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen to Sit in for Levon Helm at Midnight Rambles in February

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen to Sit in for Levon Helm at Midnight Rambles in February

Source: Something Else!

With Levon Helm sidelined by an undisclosed medical procedure, his web site has announced that Donald Fagen of Steely Dan will be a special guest at previously scheduled Midnight Rambles on February 11, 18 and 25. Helm, the Grammy-winning co-founding member of the Band, is expected to be out at least a month. He suffered through a bout with throat cancer in the late 1990s, though it remains unclear if this new procedure is because of a related issue. Helm ...

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Music Industry

Steely Dan | Santa Barbara | Review | Pics

Steely Dan | Santa Barbara | Review | Pics

Source: JamBase

By L. Paul Mann Steely Dan :: 07.06.11 :: Santa Barbara Bowl :: Santa Barbara, CA July 6th was an unusually crisp and warm evening in Santa Barbara with light Santa Ana winds buffeting the hillsides above the city. It was a perfect summer evening for a concert by the veteran jazz rock fusion band Steely Dan. As the sunset faded to twilight, the 11-piece Miles High Big Band and the Embassy Brats began an impressive jam introduction of an ...

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Recording

How Steely Dan Got Wayne Shorter

How Steely Dan Got Wayne Shorter

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Steely Dan's Aja is one of the finest albums of the 1970s and  easily one of the group's most exotic and captivating works. The title track has always been particularly special, since it features an extended robust solo by tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter [pictured]. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker specifically wanted Shorter, but he almost wasn't on the album. More on how that came to be in a moment. New subject: Dick LaPalm is one of the greatest living legends ...

150

Performance / Tour

Steely Dan: Beacon Theatre Run

Steely Dan: Beacon Theatre Run

Source: JamBase

SEVEN NIGHTS OF THE DAN Steely Dan have announced a special run of shows from September 14-23 at the Beacon Theatre in NYC as part of their previously announced 2011 Shuffle Diplomacy Tour. Pre-sale for these performances starts on May 15, with a general on-sale on May 20. The band will be playing special sets on each night. September 16, 19, and and 20 will feature full album performances of Gaucho, Aja and The Royal Scam respectively. The September 14 ...

Jeff Perry
guitar
JJ Soul Band
keyboards
Al Falaschi
saxophone
Tyrone Birkett
saxophone, alto
Javier García
guitar, electric
Under The Lake
keyboards
David B Harris
trombone
Jayson Tipp
keyboards
Devin Reilly
composer / conductor
Organ Fairchild
organ, Hammond B3
Brian Grace
saxophone
Wide-Eyed Lounge Cats
band / ensemble / orchestra

Photos

Concerts

May 31 Fri
Jun 13 Thu
Steely Dan, Eagles
Gelredome
Arnhem, Netherlands
Jun 15 Sat
Steely Dan, Eagles
Gelredome
Arnhem, Netherlands

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Aja

MCA Records (2)
2011

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The Very Best Of...

Unknown label
2009

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The Definitive...

Geffen Records
2006

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Marian McPartland's...

Concord Music Group
2005

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Videos

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