Steely Dan’s “Aja”: Eight Minutes of Genius

(Reprinted from CultureSonar)

steely danSteely Dan is known for jazz-influenced arrangements, quirky lyrics, and pristine production.  Even non-fans recognize the brilliance of their 1977 album, Aja. For many music lovers, it’s their first choice for a late night listen accompanied by iced Manhattans. Audiophiles use it to audition high end stereo speakers. Jazz purists discuss its intricacies with classic rock veterans.

Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had formed Steely Dan as a band in the early seventies, serving as the group’s principal songwriters. They combined their love of rhythm and blues with their deep appreciation of jazz. They weren’t a rock band with horns or a jazz fusion band. Steely Dan was something different and unique — a rock band that used jazz harmonies.

By the time of Aja, Fagen and Becker were the only permanent band members (although original guitarist Denny Dias often appeared as a guest). They supplemented their instruments with the best session players in New York and Los Angeles. Their jazz rock sound, with hardly a traditional major or minor chord in sight, was recorded with the utmost care thanks to the work of producer Gary Katz and engineer Roger Nichols

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