Lush Life

Was Steely Dan a big influence on 70s and 80s jazz?

34 posts in this topic

Over on the Steve Hoffman Music Forum, there's a thread debating the merits of the rock band Steely Dan and the music Becker/Fagen have recorded. And one guy there has stated the following:

I love Gaucho, it's a great, dark album. It's absolutely the album they should have made at the time. For me it's a singular work and slightly ahead of its time sonically and emotionally speaking. That's probably why it informed a lot of the jazz of the time for most of the '80s.

There are some seriously knowledgeable jazz fans here. I'm not as knowledgeable, but that statement struck me as odd, exaggerated, improbable. I'd be more inclined to believe that 80s jazz musicians influenced Becker/Fagen, not the other way around.

Anyone with some perspectives on this?

Edited by Lush Life

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They were intelligent followers, not leaders.

Enjoy them for what they were.

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They were intelligent followers, not leaders.

Enjoy them for what they were.

I'm not particularly a fan of them, they're okay for what they are. I just found the notion that they influenced "much of 80s jazz" to be absurd, but wondered if I was mistaken or uninformed.

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They were intelligent followers, not leaders.

Enjoy them for what they were.

I agree with Chuck. Their music was clearly informed by jazz, and contained numerous references, both musically and lyrically, to things jazz fans know about. But did their music influence or inform the jazz of the time? I don't think so.

I love "Gaucho", but I seem to recall that a large portion of one of the tunes is lifted almost directly from a tune on the Keith Jarrett/Jan Garbarek album "Belonging" - "Long As You Know Your'e Living Yours", I believe.

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It's like B.B. King said - "Does your daddy look like you, or do you look like your daddy?"

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I'm inclined to agree w/Chuck as well, and I can't really hear their influence in the late 1970s/1980s jazz that I know (but there's a lot that I don't know). As an aside/one-off, there was this Woody Herman album, which I have yet to hear (but would like to):

Woody+Herman+-+Chick,+Donald,+Walter+%26+Woodrow.jpg

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i admit that this 1982 album was/is a guilty pleasure of mine

843e124128a00f804731c010.L.jpg

:winky:

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More ridiculousness from the Hoffman followers. The issue of who followed whom has already been addressed. As someone who enjoyed Steely Dan from their inception (and had the pleasure of seeing them live during the Pretzel Logic tour), I consider Gaucho to be their weakest effort. All the edges are smoothed out to the point where there's little of substance or interest to grab onto. Imo, Katy Lied was their last great album, and many years later, I find more of value in their earlier, less polished recordings.

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It's like B.B. King said - "Does your daddy look like you, or do you look like your daddy?"

Or do you both look like your granddaddy?

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Their championing of Warne Marsh was an indirect contribution - not connected to their music - but it did show they had good ears.

Q

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I always found them posturing and pretentious, lyrically. (Now and Zen?) But well-crafted and intelligent for pop of that day. They were big jazz fans, that's for sure. Don't know if they influenced jazz, I don't know enough about them and which jazzer listened/copped. But for me, anyway, as a player and lover of good melodies from wherever give me Stevie Wonder or Donny Hathaway from that period. Just straight-up beautiful snd soulful w/o trying to be hip or show their smartness. And musically Steely Dan tried to be (and succeeded in being)more involved than appeals to my taste as improvisor. Not enough daylight between the changes to want to park anything.

Just my opinion. Anyway, they are talented and creative.

Edited by fasstrack

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The Nightfly is my second favorite rock album. No guilty pleasure about it!

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I've always been a fan of Steely Dan, and jazz has been stealing from them ever since Horace Silver built that damned time machine.

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I really dug Steely Dan for a while, but in the long run I found they were too controlled and perfectionist, lacking the looseness of jazz - and that's the reason why I think they didn't influence jazz musicians.

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Was Steely Dan a big influence on 70s and 80s jazz? I don't think so, more likely, the other way around.

They were intelligent followers, not leaders. Enjoy them for what they were.

exactly.

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otoh...the meticulous recording/production esthetic they became known for did have an influence on a lot of "glossier" jazz records that followed in their wake.

I'd also posit that, while not an influence per se, a lot of players who heard both SD & jazz in their formative years did not push the former out of the picture as they pursued the latter.

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i admit that this 1982 album was/is a guilty pleasure of mine

843e124128a00f804731c010.L.jpg

I enjoyed and continue to enjoy this with no guilt whatsoever!

I've always liked SD- their tunes contain a lot of interesting harmony, which is rare in pop radio. Sometimes I have no idea what the hell Fagen is talking about, though.

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Apples and Oranges.

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I doubt if they had a huge influence on subsequent jazz. But they certainly had a big influence (along with others) of alerting a rock audience to jazz (Joni Mitchell was having the same impact around the same time, sometimes with common musicians).

I can't be sure, but I suspect 'Pretzel Logic' was the first place I heard Charlie Parker's name.

I am certain that the version of 'East St. Louis Toodle-oo' got me curious about Ellington.

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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After The Royal Scam the band pretty much became Fagen, Becker, and a rotating cast of jazz session musicians and ringers. Becker and Fagen produced Apogee, a Warne Marsh Pete Christlieb straight up jazz album I've never actually heard. They truly love jazz, but I believe the influence was the other way around, and they were better playing their knowing brand of rock filled with insider references and allusions than what I call Weather Report with clever lyrics.

Of course, the only way to find out how the influence goes is to ask the musician. I took some friends who knew next to nothing about jazz to a Don Cherry concert in the 70's, and one of them announced afterward that he was 'obviously influenced by Stevie Wonder'. Well who knows? Cherry knew everything.

I think there was an official court decision about using the Keith Jarrett riff from Belonging, but I don't know if the Horace SIlver borrowing went to court. I see here that they got some people to listen to jazz, which is always a good thing. I look at the situation in the same way as the Joni Mitchell Mingus record. If it got a few people to turn on to Mingus, which is probably why he did it, then it worked.

You have to remember that most Hoffman forum members came to jazz from rock, and they came recently.

Edited by ATR

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You have to remember that most Hoffman forum members came to jazz from rock, and they came recently.

What bothers me is that some of them pretend to know all about jazz after hearing a few jazz CDs, preferably mastered by Hoffman.

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I look at the situation in the same way as the Joni Mitchell Mingus record. If it got a few people to turn on to Mingus, which is probably why he did it, then it worked.

Just to say that as a 20 year old kid with an AMG book full of scrap paper and a growing list of sidemen to look out for, Mingus turned me on to Joni Mitchell.

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After The Royal Scam the band pretty much became Fagen, Becker, and a rotating cast of jazz session musicians and ringers.

Maybe it's my bad memory, but I thought this was the case from the start, not just after The Royal Scam.

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