Music Reviews

Everything You Did: The Music of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen

9/5/2013
BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

EVERYTHING YOU DID: THE MUSIC OF WALTER BECKER & DONALD FAGEN

Mark Masters Ensemble (Capri)

The problem with some jazzy reinterpretations of pop and rock icons is they end up sounding like elevator music. Not this one.

The talented bandleader and arranger Mark Masters is on his game with this collection, based around arrangements he has written of Steely Dan songs. The result is a treasure of a jazz album in the large ensemble format - one of the more memorable jazz albums of 2013, for that matter - that is more of a testament to Masters' composing skills than the flirtation with the Steely Dan sound, the latter of which only serves as a musical backdrop and point of reference.

Think about it: Steely Dan was a sophisticated, complex rock-pop group which had elements of jazz and other genres, perhaps most notably on its "Aja" album. Masters moves right in and opens the door wide to something totally different, yet slightly familiar - a model for reinvention.

It helps that he has a brilliant cast, not only in terms of a dozen or so musicians playing in the ensemble at any given time but also solos from the likes of tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, trumpeter Tim Hagans, bari saxman Gary Smulyan, bassist Hamilton Price, and legendary jazz drummer Peter Erskine.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.