I saw him in concert once. It was a Steely Dan concert, 2006, at an outdoor venue in summertime Virginia. While we waited for Donald Fagen and Walter Becker — the founding members of the Dan — to emerge for the main event, the core band got ready on the dimly lit stage by working out a classically cool jazz number from the golden age of hip. I don’t even know the name of the song or who it was by, but I wish I did. It was a majestic moment, suspended between anticipation for what was about to come, and reverence for what had come before.
The mood went from subdued to raucous when the Dan started playing as the Dan, shucking off the formalities of 1950s jazz for the exuberance of the hybrid sound they’d developed in the 1970s, merging jazz and rock and soul and breeding them all together. The pre-show workout had been Steely Dan’s way (I think) of showing off their band’s jazz chops while also paying tribute to the culture that spawned their sensibility and sound. In his new collection of essays, Eminent Hipsters, Fagen pays tribute to that culture more directly and abundantly. Read the rest at the L.A. Review of Books