|Editor's Note||I've Got The News|
|Profile of sideman Denny McDermott||Profile of sideman Bob Smith|
|Interview with Gary Katz||1988 guest DJ stint by W&D|
|Interview from EQ with Roger Nichols||Interviews with 3 session men|
|Babs and Willie on a quest||Letters to the editor|
If you'd like a special treat, you should pick up a copy of the new Manhattan Transfer album "The Offbeat Of Avenues" which contains a new song with music and lyrics written by Donald Fagen called "Confide In Me" which is "a soul- fully heartfelt look at recovery from addiction." This track will serve as a snack until we see more new stuff from Fagen in the future. Although Fagen doesn't sing or play on the track, the Transfer's effort seemed to convey the right attitude.
In studio news, River Sound is now open commercially, and as we said in the last issue, 1Occ did some work at the studio with co-owner Gary Katz. Also, producer Hugh Padgham (Genesis, Phil Collins, Police, Split Enz) recently talked to River Sound management about recording some projects there. Padgham was then invited to "hear the room" and see if he wanted to work there. Later, after Hugh found out that Fagen and Katz were the proprietors, he said, "If it's good enough for the guys in Steely Dan, it's good enough for me."
Walter Becker's studio in Maui is getting a workout with recent sessions completed by Buddy Fo, who's now also the afternoon DJ on Maui's KMVI. Fo's new album, called "Signature," features his band Robert Loney, Bill Shaffer, Jeffrey New and Jon Melia playing a variety of sounds including one Buddy calls "Hawaiian reggae." Also featured on the album are guest musicians Sal Godinez on keyboard and John Zangrando on sax and Sam Ahia on guitar. Before Fagen arrived, the Pahinui Brothers were also working on an album there.
Walter's production of trumpet player Jeff Beal on Triloka records was released on September 11th with liner notes thanking Walter for his "focus and creativity." Dan alumnus Roger Nichols has continued to engineer Becker's recent Triloka and Windham Hill production work. In fact, Walter will be working in NY in January on projects for Triloka artists Jeremy Steig and Dave Kakowski. His Windham Hill production of John Beasley and Marty Krystall will be out in early 1992.
Gary Katz, whose production of Irish superstar Paul Brady's recent release "Trick Or Treat" won critical acclaim, should have his work with 1Occ out in early 1992. Unfortunately, his work with the group Swim may not be heard as they were supposedly dropped by their record label in Europe. Gary is currently working with a female artist at River Sound. We don't know yet who the artist is, but it's not Rosie Vela. But you will be able to see and hear. Rosie's singing in her first major movie role as a nightclub singer Lisa Zamora in "Double Cross" which also stars "Thelma and Louise" co-star Michael Madsen. This film is due March of '92.
Well, those questions aside, we and some listeners of WNEW-FM in NY were able to attend the taping of the show at The Academy Theater (400 people in attendance) two weeks earlier. The theater was filled with film equipment, audio recorders and industrial lighting which turned the place into a hotbox and the sweat-drenched musicians seem a hit uncomfortable. Fagen and crew were constantly wiping the sweat from their brows with an abundant supply of towels, yet they all seemed to keep their sense of humor, even as cameras were thrust in their faces.
This was only Fagen's second television experience since he appeared December 18, 1988 on David Sanborn's "Sunday Night." At that time Fagen gave his thoughts about appearing on television, "I really like having a certain amount of privacy, I'm very nervous about going on television, 'cause television is what makes you famous. I did it (the Sanborn show) to actually see how nervous I'd be on television. It wasn't that bad." Well, at the taping Fagen seemed quite comfortable and made a lot of jokes during the two hour session. He told of how he hated touring in the old Steely Dan days and spoke of how the "audience's drugs of choice were Quaaludes and wine" and he remembers a guy so out of it he "crawled into one of our speakers during the show and we had to pry him out -- with a crowbar." Michael McDonald exchanged nods with Fagen as he seemed to remember the incident.
Donald Fagen agreed to join the symposium along with Blood Sweat and Tears and Blues Project founder Al Kooper, classic Muscle Shoalsters Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham and bluesy country tunesmith Gary Nicholson. The Little Big Band's own Jimmy Vivino was also on hand to add his guitar prowess to the proceedings. Al Kooper called Jimmy the "grease that makes this machine go."
Donald took his seat at the piano surrounded with Gary on acoustic guitar, Al on a Korg M1, Dan on acoustic guitar and Spooner on keyboards. In a round robin fashion, Vin Scelsa questioned the performers about their songs. All the artists chose a couple of their favorite tunes, talked about how they came up with the music and lyrics and then performed them. Kooper highlighted his early Blood, Sweat & Tears work, dirty white boys Penn and Oldham performed their soul hits "I'm Your Puppet" and "Sweet Inspiration" and Nicholson debuted "The Trouble With The Truth."
For us, the The Bottom Line provided such an intimate atmosphere for seeing Donald perform and discuss his work, it was almost like being in a recording studio. Fagen spoke softly as he went into describing his writing style with Steely Dan, which was driven by the way he played the piano "like a giant guitar with a few notes thrown in." He also acknowledged that "a lot of the Steely Dan attitude was Walter's." On his influences, Donald discussed how he "was turned on to jazz by some older cousins at around age 11 and later developed a love of the blues." He continued, "By combining jazz with the simple directness of blues, he and fellow "jazz weenie" Walter Becker began to develop the Steely Dan sound."
Fagen then decribed producer Gary Katz's role in Steely Dan as very important as he and Walter were new in Los Angeles at the start, and "Gary knew all the best players" and "Gary could also talk about sports and hockey to the players and get them relaxed." Scelsa then jokingly asked Donald if the Steely Dan lyrics made sense to him at the time they were written. "I'm afraid so," Fagen responded, and then elaborated that he and Walter "liked short story-type songs and we just left some parts out. For instance, before launching into "Black Friday," Fagen said, "this is about the stock market crash of 1929. It seemed like a good subject for a song."
As the evening progressed, Donald seemed even more relaxed in this informal forum. Vin then asked about writer's block and if Donald ever had to deal with it. "About 10 years' worth," Fagen quipped. Fagen then led into "Green Flower Street" as "kinda like an Oriental fantasy, but I guess most of my songs are."
The evening's performances had a spontaneous feel to them. As Al Kooper went to play a song, Vin's coaxing and cheers from the audience persuaded the Nashville resident to perform Blood, Sweat and Tears' "I Can't Quit Her". When he finished, Al proclaimed, "If I have to do that, Donald should have to play 'Do It Again'." As the audience roared its approval at the suggestion, Donald shot back "I don't just fold like you do!"
Then, a familiar piano opening signaled Jimmy Vivino to join Fagen on Steely Dan's "Home At Last." Jimmy's acoustic guitar work was the only accompaniment needed for this unique arrangement. Jimmy, sitting on a stool in the background, his face turning red, picked the part so unremittingly that the strings began to sail off his guitar.
Toward the end of the show, each artist was asked to perform a song they wished they had written. Fagen didn't hesitate to jump on this opportunity to show his appreciation for Burt Bacharach's and Hal David's "Land Of Make Believe". Donald spoke of how great Dionne Warwick's original performance of the song was, and then did his own vocal and piano version.
All in all, it was an entertaining and insightful evening for those who got this rare opportunity to see these great songwriters in such an intimate setting.
This review was contributed by Ken Vogel.
The Little Big Band public dress rehearsal for the Woodstock show took place the prior week at their regular Tuesday night gig at the China Club on 75th & Broadway. However, a private rehearsal took place earlier in the day in a rented rehearsal studio. And what took place in those secret sessions were debuted that night -- Donald added another two Steely Dan songs to growing list of songs he'll play live: the "bad girl" song "Josie" and "Green Earrings." At first, the band was going to rehearse "Sign In Stranger," but was later scrapped by Donald because "maybe we're trying to be a little too ambitious." "Deacon Blues" was also supposed to debut that night, but it never materialized. The China Club was packed since Jimmy's band had now gotten a reputation as the best kept secret in NYC. As the Tuesday nite show started, a couple of added guests sat in with the horn section. LBB regular baritone sax player Tom "Bones" Malone had a prior commitment in Europe so Dan session veteran Ronnie Cuber took his place. Vivino called Ronnie Cuber "the best musician he's had on stage since we've been playing live." And the other guest saxophonist joining the festivities was Branford Marsalis who's no slouch himself. Marsalis wanted to remain anonymous and with his newly-shaven head and introduction as Johnny from Mexico, he was spared the usual question "What's it like playing with Sting?"
We won't go into much more of the China Club show, because most of the magic happened at the Bearsville Theater later that week. However, we did get a laugh watching Fagen's bemusement as his uptempo "Josie" gave the crowd an excuse to jam the dance floor in front of him.
Getting back to Woodstock, both shows sold out and a line in front of the theater formed two hours before the show (mostly out-of-town "Metal Leg" subscribers) which shocked the local residents who aren't used to crowds. This was confirmed by the bartender at the theater who said, "This is biggest show we've had here. The only lines people are used to here are at the Grand Union (grocery store) and the post office." Also, the theater oversold the seating, so it was standing room only.
The LBB took the stage with Jimmy Vivino starting into "You Upsets Me." Catherine Russell followed with "Wang Dang Doodle." Then, the coolest part of, the evening was when the first few bars of "Green Earrings" started, but Fagen was nowhere to be seen on stage. And as the audience was just comprehending what was going on, the Donald took his place at the piano, sunglasses in place, looking very cool. The live version of this song transcended the "Royal Scam's" version, and the "disco bridge" was left out. Jimmy's guitar playing and the rhythm section was perfect.
Then Jenni Muldaur, looking healthier than ever, sang "You Don't Have To Go." Next the LBB original "Stone Soul Minute" showcased Vivino's bIues roots. Phoebe then took the stage with her usual show stopping presence and tore it up on "I Can't Stand The Rain" and "At Last." Now as we said earlier, we didn't know the status of "Deacon Blues." Apparently it's a tough song to do, but when the opening notes started, we went into shock as we finally witnessed the live debut of one of the greatest songs ever written. Fagen had the words to the song plastered to his piano (the song iS 15 years old) and navigated them beautifully. As the song progressed, you could see all heads turn to the horn section in anticipation of the sax solo that Pete Christlieb made famous. Jerry Vivino did Pete proud. After the show, Jerry told ML "You wouldn't believe how many times I listened to "Deacon Blues" on my car cassette player on the drive to Woodstock." That ended the first set.
The second half of the show started with "Josie" and Fagen modified the chart to include a drum solo by Gary Gold. "Walk In To The Light" followed with Catherine Russell singing this LBB original. "Killin' Floor" kept things rockin' until Phoebe returned with "You're So Fine" and a reggae version of CCR's "As long As I Can See The Light." Then Fagen bounced right back with "Chain Lightning" and "Black Friday" with guitar solos by Jimmy Vivino which should have been bottled and sold. And that ended the show.
The Friday night encore featured the whole hand doing "Wooly Booly," Fagen's rendition of Dylan's "Down Along The Cove" and Phoebe's rendition of "Just To Be With You."
The Saturday night encore featured the surprise guests Cyndi Lauper and a couple of guys from The Hooters, (including the one with the accordian) who joined in on "Wooly Booly/Hang On Sleepy." Ms. Lauper seemed to hover around Fagen's piano and stare at him like she's never seen a real musician before. All in all, another dream come true for those of us who still can't believe how far things have come in the past year and a half.
And finally, "Steely Dan Gold," another greatest hits compilation will be released on CD on MCA on October 15th. Bonus tracks on the disc will include the Santa Monica Civic Center live version of "Bodhisattva,, a re-mixed version of "Century's End" from the "Bright Lights, Big City" movie soundtrack, "True Companion" from the "Heavy Metal" movie soundtrack and "Here At The Western World."
Last modified on Sun Oct 26 17:30:13 1997