Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mark Masters Ensemble, Everything You Did, The Music of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen

Listening to the Mark Masters Ensemble album before me, I could not help but wonder why the music of Steely Dan's Walter Becker and Donald Fagen isn't covered more often by changes-oriented jazz ensembles. The ingredients have been there in the songs themselves, but they haven't been explored very much outside of the Steely Dan and solo albums of the two artists.

All that is moot since Mark Masters has gathered a big band and cut loose with some hip arrangements of Becker and Fagen on Everything You Did (Capri 74123-2). The band has some heavies in it, including Tim Hagens, Billy Harper, Peter Erskine, Gary Foster, Gary Smulyan, Oliver Lake and Sonny Simmons! Anna Mjoll handles the vocals when needed and she sounds good.

Listen to their "Big Black Cow" and perhaps that will convince you, for it strikes me at least that this song blooms in Masters' hands, in different ways than the original and of course that's the point.

They do good work on some of the very familiar ones like "Aja", "Josie", and "Do It Again", but some lesser-known ones, too.

It makes for some very solid mainstream big-band sounds. Kudos for that.

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