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Interview:
Steely Dan Still Likes Mixing Jazz With Rock
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Steely Dan isn’t part of this weekend’s Detroit International Jazz Festival, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers would certainly fit in.

Throughout its career, the duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen specialized in mixing jazz sensibilities into its brand of rock and pop. “We liked the idea of playing these jazz chords on big, ugly electric guitars,” Fagen, 61, explains. But Becker, 59 — who started playing music with Fagen when the two attended Bard College during the mid’60s — says there was a genuine musical intent to that approach.

“Donald and I were, to begin with, jazz fans, and we had the ambition of incorporating some of the harmonic elements of jazz and the general idea of very expressive playing and improvisatory elements,” he says. “It was a work in progress for us to figure out how to figure out what elements of jazz could be incorporated in rock without essentially undermining the effectiveness of the thing.”

They figured it out, of course, resulting in hit albums such as “The Royal Scam,” “Aja,” “Gauncho” and 2000’s Grammy Award-winning “Two Against Nature.” Steely Dan’s last effort was “Everything Must Go” in 2003, and Becker says there’s nothing concrete in the offing yet.

“We don’t have anything in the pipeline right now,” says Becker, who released his second solo album, “Circus Money,” last year. “The question (about a new album) may be asked, but it hasn’t been answered.”



Steely Dan performs at 8 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 5) at SoundBoard in the MotorCity Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $47.50, $81.50 and $85.50. Call (313) 237-7711 or visit www.motorcitycasino.com.

Web Site: www.motorcitycasino.com

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