Celebrating 40 Years Since ‘Aja’
“…I remember seeing the great Count Basie at a matinee at Birdland, with the great Sonny Payne on drums. When the whole band pumped out one of those thirteenth chords, you could feel the breeze on your face.”
-Donald Fagen, ‘Eminent Hipsters’ (2013)
The jazz influence in Steely Dan’s music is unquestionable. A self-confessed jazz nerd, Donald Fagen spends much of his book, ‘Eminent Hipsters’, waxing lyrically over the effortlessly hip sounds of Henry Mancini and the ‘tight arrangements’ of the Boswell Sisters. It seemed a natural progression that some day the music he crafted with his partner Walter Becker would find its way back onto the music stands of a full big band…while preserving the understatedly cool musical signature that defines Steely Dan.
From touring the world with artists such as Boy George and Paloma Faith to leading his own big band featuring Tom Harrell, Reuben is never short of ideas.
His latest celebrates the 40th birthday of arguably one of the finest contemporary albums of all time–Steely Dan’s Aja. In true Steely Dan fashion, the recording features 22 of London’s finest jazz and session musicians collaborating to perform Reuben’s arrangement of Black Cow, a Steely Dan masterpiece. Among those contributing are The Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart/vocals, Paul Booth/sax and Jason Rebello/keys.
As Reuben explains, “…as the name of the project suggests, we recorded this as an arrangement painstakingly faithful to the original version with the sole intention of celebrating 40 years of Aja; an album responsible for introducing me to Steely Dan’s music that I have lived with and loved for a very long time.”
‘Black Cow’, the single, is a digital stream and download release only on the Ubuntu Music record label, and can be found on all major digital/streaming platforms throughout the world (such as Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal). All proceeds will be donated to Cancer Research’s oesophageal cancer unit, in memory of the passing of Walter Becker, co-founder and guitarist of Steely Dan.
Explaining this decision, Fowler continues, “I started this project around eight months ago with musical buddies Tom Walsh and Darren Williams purely as a labour of love. Sadly, within that time one half of the Donald Fagen/Walter Becker partnership that created ‘Steely Dan’ as we know it passed away. Martin and I felt that this was the right thing to do to preserve the original spirit of the project while doing something in Walter’s memory.”
“I was first introduced Reuben’s idea late one night at Ronnie Scott’s and never stopped thinking about it since”, says Ubuntu’s Director, Martin Hummel. “It’s the right time to remind ourselves of just how brilliant this music is and to celebrate its genius. And Reuben, along with his all-star Big Band, is just the guy to make it all happen.”
Future plans include an album of Steely Dan/Donald Fagen material, along with a supporting tour in 2019