Pop & Rock

Steely Jazz


As an unregenerate Steely Dan fan who doesn't complain when my local classic rock station plays "Reelin' in the Years" yet again, and who even owns a promotional vinyl copy of their pre-Dan soundtrack to the1971 Richard Pryor film You've Got To Walk It Like You Talk It Or You'll Lose That Beat, I used to jump at any and all Steely Dan ephemera, be it early bootleg recordings or anecdotes about their two mad founders, Walter Becker and Donald Fagan. So when I found out about Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz Radio Broadcast With Steely Dan, a 2005 release on The Jazz Alliance label, I was thrilled, especially because this fascinating recording contains only three Steely Dan tunes but explores a wide range of songs and musical topics, guided along by the soothing tones, silk fingers, and encyclopedic knowledge of the one and only Ms. McPartland.

McPartland was a staple of my morning public radio listening routines until she retired. Her show usually featured jazz players, but occasionally she'd have on artists from different genres. I never heard the show that featured Steely Dan, which makes it that much sweeter that the recording is available. Especially revealing are the bits of conversation between performances, in which McPartland introduces the music of Becker and Fagan as encompassing "the entire realm of hipness." The pair reminisces about their start, their influences ("every song that Charlie Parker ever played"), and the dynamic rhythm sections they've recorded with over the years.

This release offers a rare glimpse into the thoughts and motivations of a one-of-a-kind band that spanned rock and jazz with singular style, humor, and talent. The degree of musical knowledge in McPartland's interview approach draws out these traits and makes for a unique and satisfying listen.

Duane Allman Skydog: The Restrospective