To turn 70 and not have retired in this wild business of rock ‘n’ roll, is always something to have the utmost respect for. Donald Fagen turns 70 today, and as you probably know by now, Steely Dan and their compadres The Doobie Brothers are promising a Hot Summer of Living Dangerously! For tour dates, visit their respective websites or Facebook pages.
We however would like to zoom into another aspect of mr. Fagen’s musical career! Five years ago, which happens to have been on January 2, 2013, we posted about Donald’s collaboration with a band of young musicians, Oh Whitney. If it doesn’t ring any bells, and you would like to flash back and read this Time Out of Mind article about how Oh Whitney and Donald Fagen met, go ahead. Take all the time you need 😉
Managed to catch up? GOOD!! Let’s commence today’s celebration then!
Peter More was Oh Whitney’s frontman. With his band (Lead Guitar / Jose Juan Poyatos, Bass / Diego Noyola and Drums / Adrien Faunce) he took to the studio to record a new album, produced by none other than Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen! Now Walter Becker was known for his production work with artists like Michael Franks, Rickie Lee Jones, China Crisis, Fra Lippo Lippi, Rosie Vela, John Beasley and Krishna Das, next to other musical collaborations. Donald Fagen did co-produce Becker’s 11 Tracks of Whack album, as Becker was involved in Fagen’s Kamakiriad, but he was more involved in writing scores for soundtracks and writing columns than engage himself in production stints. It can also easily be overlooked he loves hardcore jazz, to which this Thelonius Monk tribute with guitarist Steve Khan and Donald Fagen on synthesizer may testify. His affiliation with writing music for others can be distilled from this anecdotal article about comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney (yes, it’s Steely Dan related).
We’d like you to see this official Peter More video, which includes Donald Fagen as a producer and keyboardist. “It was inspiring watching Donald in the studio as he produced the record, playing keys throughout and mapping vocal harmonies.” Peter More says in an interview. Happy 70th birthday, maestro! Here’s to much more than a summer of living dangerously!
This show came to mind amidst the many interviews and articles over the years. Not in the least because of the wonderful and charming host, Marian McPartland. A great hour of musings and music. Even though it is very sad mr. Becker left so soon, to celebrate life, or his work, is the best way of honoring the time he was here. Enjoy! Originally recorded July 23, 2002. Originally aired in 2003.
Nate Patrin will no doubt take you on a trip of lingual pleasantries if you read his ode to the genius of Steely Dan out loud! You may want to check the volume of your device first before you hit play on the presented videos though. They’re all covers of Do It Again. We already found you a brand new, lush jazzy version by the lovely miss Kari Kirkland, and there are others not taken into consideration by Stereogum. Like Tori Amos:
Can’t see the embedded Stereogum post for some reason? Click here >> Stereogum’s got you covered
“In the early 1990s the group that I have co-led on and off since then – Lost Tribe – managed to get ourselves signed with a good label. This happened, in a big part, due to the support of Walter Becker. He heard our “demo” tape – given to him by Ben Perowsky – and, if memory serves, about “five minutes” later, we were signed. He brought the band to his incredibly beautiful studio in Maui to produce and record us for 2 weeks in 1993. He then asked a few of us to play on his first solo record, the recording of which commenced a few months later. We spent about 6 weeks exploring and recording the music for that record – “11 tracks of whack”- which I think is a subtle masterpiece. Words can’t describe what a thrill it was to hang and make music with him in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I am SO grateful to have had these experiences. They are some of the most memorable in my life and, through them, I got to know Walter. I learned many valuable lessons about music working with him which I will always remember. His was among the most intelligent, biting and interesting WITS I have had the pleasure to interact with. He was an incredible conversationalist and.. off the hook hysterical. His and Donald’s music has had a profound effect on me since I was very young when I first heard “Peg” on AM radio in NYC. The sophistication in their music was a revelation to me. It’s been difficult these last few days as I am very, very sad to hear of his passing. I am also so grateful to have been able to spend as much time with him as I did. Rest in peace Walter. You will be so missed.”
For Adam’s Facebook post, scroll down some or click 6 weeks on Maui
(Update February 2, 2016: Owen plays another Steely tune! and an article in Jambase.com: http://www.jambase.com/article/12-year-old-pianist-plays-impromptu-show-for-umphreys-fans )
Last week, we received an email which included a link to the video above. Owen’s dad, Harlan York, figured his son’s piano version of this classic Steely Dan tune belonged on Mizar6 -formerly known as Mizar5-. We couldn’t agree more! Of course we were curious and asked Harlan a few questions he was happy to answer:
M6: Owen most likely has been introduced to the music of Steely Dan by you, his father?
HY: I started playing everything from Dylan to Miles for him at a young age. When his aptitude for piano began to present itself, I wanted him to hear music that had a great deal of emphasis on that instrument. Steely Dan just made sense. He learned the whole catalog quickly.
M6: Can you share some of your own history with SD music, perhaps?
HY: I have been to about 600 live shows in more than 30 years. Started listening to Steely (not counting hearing Peg on the radio as a child, when it was a big hit) at some point in my teens. Really got into Dan in college. I’m an avid fan of jambands – Dead, Phish, Radiators, Umphrey’s McGee, but also everything from jazz to punk to hip hop, really most genres as long as I enjoy the artists. But I can’t play a note. My first SD show was about 20 years ago in NYC. I also saw a Beacon show with my wife and kids in 2013 and we already have tickets for Royal Scam in Oct at Beacon.
M6: I found this info about the video channel https://www.youtube.com/user/pianopanther1/about and there’s a lot of videos in there already. I also saw something about a medley combining the music of Frank Zappa among others?
HY: Yup. I have played FZ for Owen as well as so many other acts. That video was featured on a jambands site when he was 9. Owen figured out how to arrange the segues himself after making a list of songs he knew both from his teacher and by ear. The 21 songs in 17 minutes medley was a nice example of how Owen has certain understanding of piano.
M6: When did you notice he was good on the piano, it’s described he started at age 6? Did he spontaneously started to play songs he heard when they were being played from CD or album?
HY: His older sister was taking piano lessons. She eventually moved to violin and now sings in Chorus. Owen immediately showed aptitude. He sight reads, has perfect pitch, can identify what key a piece is in, and so he can play anything he hears. He also benefitted greatly from the last 3 and a half years working with the incredible John Lampkin. A lot about John is noted in the new Chick Corea Spain video that I posted on June 7. You can read the full description to learn more about it and watch the 4 minute video.
M6: Does Owen transcribe the music by himself, by ear?
HY: He has songbooks, but as his teacher told him, the transcriptions are often wrong. So with SD he typically plays by ear. He has plenty of sheet music that his teacher gave him to learn many of the jazz standards and classical in his repertoire.
M6: You must be a very proud parent!
HY: Indeed. My wife and I are proud of both of our kids!! The band Umphrey’s McGee has been so nice to Owen – they posted a number of his videos – ironically they have a series of Dan covers that they play from time to time – if you haven’t heard those yet, you will enjoy them.
M6: How about Owen’s near future, is he going to play music or perform at school?
HY: Owen is supposed to join a county jazz ensemble in the fall in which he will be significantly younger than most if not all of the musicians.
M6: Thank you once again for sharing Owen’s talent with the world, and encouraging him to keep real music alive, that’s quite an accomplishment these days.