Thursday, September 9, 2010

Duke Ellington / Donald Fagen

"Duke Ellington"
sculpture by Robert Graham
Frawley Circle, Manhattan, NYC, USA
I've only been to three rock concerts in my life, one of which I hated and walked out of, one of which I could take or leave, and one that I was glad I went to.  Hearing Steely Dan in Houston a couple years ago, thanks to my sister's invitation, was a lot of fun, nostalgic, etc., but it was also enlightening.  At the front of the stage the back of Donald Fagen's keyboard featured a large photo image of Duke Ellington leading his own orchestra from the piano. Ellington led his own orchestra, just as Fagen leads one of his own, making for a sort of vies parallèles.  Mr. Fagen picked his hero well.  The realization I had though was that these two musicians added so much to the sound of music in America with their compositions.  I was glad the meaning of the photo image wasn't lost on me.  Both were/are amazing innovators of harmony, great songwriters, skilled instrumental arrangers, etc..  Both ran/run incredibly professional outfits, and bring a dignity to performance that is rare in the popular music field.  Today it's all about mindless dance numbers, gimmicks, and slick packaging!  All encompassing talent and true professionalism (with all it's implications) seems so extremely scarce now.  Ellington and Fagen both carved out a unique place that intersected both jazz and popular music circles, but maintained an uncompromising dedication to their own unique musical language.  The Steely Dan show that I saw was nice for one thing - it was all about the music!  Donald Fagen's and Walter Becker's band had stage presence galore, but the music itself reigned.  Of course it did!

Donald Fagan in concert 9/20/2011 in NYC
© 2010 Steve D. Matchett

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