Make Up Your Mind!

And so our Mizar6 universe managed to reach the Ojay Valley in SunnyCal, which invited a singer-songwriter to share with us a tune he figured would fit here perfectly.

And he’s right.

Now before you go and listen, please take a few minutes to read the story attached because after all, it’s the stories that make it all worth our while!

Aron Van Alstine is an independent singer/songwriter from Calisota (California and Minnesota) currently living in Ojai. He wrote a song that all his friends say is “steelydanesque”: Make Up Your Mind.

We had to ask the inevitable questions. Are you a Steely Dan fan? Is there a story to go with Make Up Your Mind?

Aron: “I have vague childhood memories of Steely Dan. I was really young, maybe 4 or 5. I was visiting at my uncle’s apartment in Minneapolis where I used to watch the waveforms on his oscilloscope for hours at a time. I loved the patterns they made. And I can remember hearing Peg in the background. I also remember he liked Jeff Lorber. I’m surprised I even remember that name.

I probably went decades without listening to Steely Dan. I got deep into classic rock and blues in high school, and by college I was on to classic jazz. Finally, years later, it kept coming up in the process of making my first album. My engineer would be like,

“Let’s take a break and listen to some Steely Dan.”

Because mix-wise, it’s so perfect. Everything in its right place.

I can even remember a time when I thought what I really wanted to do was to create a blend of jazz and rock music. Now when I go back and listen to Steely Dan, I’m like, “Duh. They did it perfectly 30 years ago already!”

What I’ve created wasn’t intentionally derivative in any way. I’d like to think that my writing and my playing are unique even if they are “Steelydanesque.” I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in my pursuit of eclectic rock ‘n’ roll.

I wrote and rewrote “Make Up Your Mind” so many times I can hardly remember where it comes from any more. It was originally intended for this killer R&B singer, April Hendrix. But that project dissolved and I was left with all these demos. Eventually I was able to rework some of them for my own voice. I intended to record this one for my first record, “Here Comes a Train,” but I wasn’t happy with it.

Most songs I would just forget after that much trouble, but there was something about this one that kept it on the back burner. Finally, I got some great basic tracks when I was doing sessions for my “A Kind of Silence” EP. The overdubs turned out really great, so I went to mix it. All that time spent dissecting Steely Dan came in handy, because the instrumentation was very similar. Muchos kudos to Tony Humecke and Rory Anton for their guidance in this department.”

Thanks so much Aron, for sharing your music and story with us here at Mizar6! We want to wish you loads of luck and fun in all your musical endeavors! http://aronvanalstine.com/

Joe Jackson: He’s the man

WALTER BECKER: Eleven Tracks Of Whack

OK, this isn’t that obscure – in this context, I almost feel like I’ve gone all Top Twenty. But it is underrated. I can’t believe how many people I’ve met who profess to be Steely Dan nuts like myself, but don’t know that Walter Becker has made two solo albums. Becker’s solo efforts seem to be overshadowed by Donald Fagen’s, but in my opinion this 1994 album (my God, has it really been that long?) is not only better than Becker’s second but better than any of Fagen’s, and better than a lot of Steely Dan’s post-‘comeback’ work.

I still play this album often, but part of its appeal when it was released was that it was just so damn unexpected. No one ever thought Becker could deliver a whole album’s worth of lead vocals, for one thing, but he does a pretty good job. His voice is difficult to assess: it has a laconic, amateurish, not-really-trying quality which is less intense and distinctive than Fagen’s, but somehow a bit easier to live with. The album is full of great songs, too: Down In The Bottom, Junkie Girl, Book Of Liars, Girlfriend, Lucky Henry, the magnificently-titled This Moody Bastard. Of course it sounds very much like Steely Dan, which might, I suppose, only be mildly surprising to someone who always assumed Fagen to be the ‘main man’. Though I should probably mention that he is credited here as co-producer.

Anyway, the other refreshing surprise for me, when I first heard this album, was its slightly rough-edged, homemade sound. Whereas later Steely Dan is sometimes criticized for being too ‘slick’, this sometimes sounds almost like a demo tape. It’s more rhythmically varied and interesting than a lot of Late Dan, too.

Don’t get me wrong, these guys are heroes of mine. I’m delighted they’re still around, and there were moments in the New York show I saw a couple of years ago that sent shivers down my spine. I can’t believe I have the nerve to be even hesitantly and ever-so-politely critical, but I do think their sound of late has become a bit set-in-stone. Maybe they should go back and give this album another listen. And maybe Pretzel Logic, too.

10 years in orbit we are!

We’re headed for the end of yet another year, and we completely forgot to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of Mizar5!! I know, I know, we changed it into Mizar6 to make a difference or a point rather, still, we should have brought out the hats and… ha, see? We haven’t forgotten how to talk Steely!

Either way, we just wanted to share some stuff with you, such as the release of this stellar new album! The Breithaupt Brothers, Don and Jeff, they teamed up for yet another fine set of compositions guaranteed to make you bow down in awe. They did it again and delivered a masterpiece. Just Passing Through is its title and the cast of musicians and vocalists is stunning: Marc Jordan, Paul Shaffer, Sophie Milman and Ron Sexsmith to name just a few.

breithauptpassingthrough “When I go to the movies I am invariably one of the last people to leave the theatre. That’s because I stay behind to read the credits. There is much to be learned from that rolling script if you take the time to read it. I feel the same way about music. I devour studio credits and liner notes in hopes of garnering little pieces of information about the music I’ve just listened to, in the event there’s something worth passing on. That’s how I first learned about Jeff and Don Breithaupt.”

1555542_10204616012097149_1359274192202969649_n “I can’t remember the name of the song or even the record it appeared on but it impressed me enough at that time to look up the songwriters and read their story. I was more than a little impressed by what they’d accomplished to that point. So when Just Passing Through: The Breithaupt Brothers Songbook Vol. II landed in my digital mailbox I wasted no time downloading the tracks and cycling through them. My initial response was simply “wow.” Further listening confirmed my initial response was an accurate assessment of what I’d heard.”
Continue reading.

You do know that Don Breithaupt wrote a must-have pocketbook about Aja? And that the Breithaupt Brothers collaborate with the Leonhart siblings (Carolyn and Michael) when in New York? Okay, just checking :-) so you needn’t be wondering what the Steely connection is here. We’re still not done listening to Just Passing Through, and as soon as we find a moment, we’ll try to give you a little more than just superlatives!

wadenius Which brings us straight to Georg Wadenius, renowned Swedish guitarist/composer/arranger who toured and recorded with numerous artists. We interviewed him for Mizar5 once, and have kept up to speed since. He released Cleo 2, as you can see, a follow-up to his 1987 album with the same name. We can recommend watching this documentary, which even though it’s in Swedish, isn’t hard to understand when the language is music. Enjoy!

And last, but not least, we’d like to ask your attention for a blog that touches on legalities that can really ruin one’s chances to move forward in life. Or in the United States of America. We first heard of this artist when listening to Dandom Radio, an initiative of Hoops who also distributes the incomparable and essential on anything ‘Dan’, namely the Dandom Digest. The tune that made us drop what we were doing cleverly mixed Steely Dan with Frank Zappa. Brain Tap Shuffle. Yeah that’s exactly what it did! Nigey Lennon, as a musician and published author who also runs her own e-book publishing company called Airstream Books, is working on a new album, but she’s brutally hindered by the stickiness known as red tape, courtesy of the rigid apparatus called bureaucracy. Read all about it on Bedford and Bowery.

nigey Nigey’s first album was re-released by Muffin Records. “Classification has always been anathema to Lennon. Equally at home writing a risqué blues tune, a string quartet, a big band free-for-all, a sea shanty, a hauntingly melodic Lieder-like song — or more likely a combination of all of them — Lennon’s self-confessed musical purpose is to express what she feels at the moment. “Sometimes the moments all collide like a train wreck,” she admits, “but that’s the way it goes.” Born in Los Angeles to a philologist mother and “a house painter-drifter-philosopher” father, who died in an accident shortly before she was born, Lennon suffered from a hip defect at birth and as a result of limited mobility spent her early childhood in her bedroom, listening to 78 RPM records and reading. She began playing guitar when she was ten and moved on to electric guitar at 11. An early influence on her music was her great-uncle, old-time fiddler James B. Gordon, whom she often accompanied on guitar when he played dances and rodeos in the Southwest. At age 12 she accidentally got hold of a copy of “Freak Out!”, the first album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Heavily influenced by the recording, Lennon decided she wanted to be a professional musician. Three years later she recorded a demo tape of songs she had written and sent it to Frank Zappa’s record company, Bizarre Records. This led to a meeting with Zappa which didn’t result in a record deal, but he did tell her he thought she might be a good guitarist someday if she kept practicing.” Continue reading.

Lost in translation!

We haven’t been keeping up with news for months, but decided to fire up the old Mizar engine for the following we spotted on a Facebook friend’s wall (thanks, Jun Kumagai!). You all know we love to read what’s written about Steely Dan and its founders, but if a journalist misinterprets or twists facts to sensationalize in order to try and earn some readership wings, that is a big NO NO in our book! So yeah, click on the image for the rest of this article, and how a Rolling Stone journalist now will never ever get on the good side of mr. Donald Fagen.

But wait! There’s more! Scroll on for the rest of this story. A link to the Rolling Stone article can be found Down In The Bottom, to add Walter Becker to this mix (up).

We googled the Donald-Fagen-blasts-boring-Dylan-McDonald-Scaggs Donald Fagen refers to in his post, and found a bundle of other websites covering this as hot gossip, they’re all using the same snippets.

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We took a look in the comments on the Donald Fagen Facebook page (he posted a newer version of his initial response that is posted in Vintage Vinyl News we refer to if you click the first image) and picked a fine selection to show you here:

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Oh Whitney & Donald Fagen

First, wishing all who end up here by chance or on purpose a Happy Healthy 2013.

You might want to hear some news about Walter Becker, we can’t oblige in that department alas. Mizar6 host Rumpus is on Facebook all the time following various music pages and his colleague Bud’s into deep contemplation away on some roof in Shangri-La.

So what we can offer you for the moment, is news that involves Donald Fagen as a producer. It might surprise you, though. Ever heard of Oh Whitney?

You will now. If you’re curious how they all met, just follow this link.

Glamorous Confession: Donald Fagen’s new album appetizer!

Donald Fagen’s new album Sunken Condos is on the rise. The first single is released and available via the usual outlets. Click the album pic for a stream on Rolling Stone magazine, if you want to check out the rest, click here. We have been out of the loop for many months. Got reeled back in the second we heard a familiar sound, and after listening to it time after time after time for as long as the insomnia permitted, we could only reach this one conclusion:

Mizar6 embraces this tune and the optimism it brings! And more later this week, because Rickie Lee Jones also has a new album out, available now everywhere for purchase, a wonderful collection of classic compositions by Neil Young, Levon Helm, The Rolling Stones… go check it out, you won’t be disappointed: “The Devil You Know”.

JekerJazz Maastricht 2010: Funk’d

This requires a little bit of info. The past four days, Maastricht celebrated the 20th edition of JekerJazz, a musical fest in the heart of the city with cafes, pubs, lounges and small diners offering free music to their audiences. I got involved a couple of months ago and helped Giel Coenen and Appie Weijers with some PR and promotional activities: Using social media and networks like Facebook, Twitter and the incomparable WordPress blogconcept to spread the word. On Saturday we had a few things going on in which i was highly involved. A homage for Glenn Corneille, the musician who sadly passed away due to a tragic car accident in 2005, started with music in the old bell tower of the City Hall. Kenneth Tan, a very good photographer made some real nice pictures and if you click his name, you get a pretty good idea of what it was like up there.

We spent the afternoon in bar lounge Cabane, watching a DVD of Corneille’s latest concert with his Corneille Roelofs Trio in the company of his parents and their friends. It was a heartwarming experience with some moving moments, especially for Glenn’s parents. Even though it was a DVD, after each song played by the Trio, the audience in Cabane applauded just like the people on the DVD did. As if it was a genuine live concert. It sure sounded like one.

So, for the evening there was a lot to choose from and we left it to where chance might lead us. I got wind of some groovy sounds and when i went into the Falstaff cafe, i couldn’t have been more surprised. So many bands were programmed i really didn’t keep track of who was in what band and such. And there he was, Roger Corneille. Yes. he’s Glenn’s cousin. My entire day was a Corneille one it seemed, and not a bad day to spend it in the company of Corneilles. For the musical talents sure weren’t limited to Glenn, who really was one of a kind in the way he mastered his instrument. But his cousin Roger has something to call his own as well!

And it wouldn’t be real Mizar6-ish, or Mizar5-ish if there wasn’t a Steely Dan connection somewhere along the way. So we’re going to see who’s in this truly funky groovy Funk’d from Venlo, a small southern town northwest in the province of Limburg: Duncan Tilmans (drumz), Werner van Gool (keys), Charles Coppens (bass), Roger Corneille (vocals) and Berland Rours on guitar. And it’s this Berland guy who is our Steely connection. Besides being a real good player as you can easily assess when having seen the clip above, he’s also on drummer Ron van Stratum’s latest album: Swingin’ In The Swamp.

Will leave it to you to find the answer: Ron van Stratum (drums, percussion); Jim Beard (keys); Mike Roelofs (keys); Wilbert Kivits (keys); Jon Herington (git); Frank Peeters (git); Berland Rours (git); Roman Korolik (bass); Henk de Laat (ac-bass); Peter Hermesdorf (sax); Andy Middleton (sax); Sam Vloemans (trp); Nadine Nix (voc). CD mastering by Scott Kinsey.

Dukes without an occupational hazard

NEW YORK — Separately, the Dukes of September have sold tens of millions of albums, explored every major strain of popular music and commanded attention over four decades.

United, they are promising to deliver a unique concert bonanza for Boomers and connoisseurs of R&B and soul.

Tonight in Danbury, Conn., Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald play the first of 22 Rhythm Revue dates during which they’ll try to justify the regal, doo-wopish title they’ve bestowed upon themselves. It shouldn’t be hard, as they offer up nuggets from their own careers, alongside tunes from jukebox heaven and the Americana attic. Tour stops include Boston (Aug. 31), Chicago (Sept. 11), Los Angeles (Sept. 29) and a finale in Las Vegas (Oct. 2).

continue reading on USA TODAY