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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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Concepts for Jazz/Rock Piano by Donald Fagen

I’m just listening and watching a DVD with Donald Fagen of Steely Dan fame, describing his approach to composing and arranging jazz and rock music by deconstructing his own tunes. He started with Chain Lightning, continued with Peg, and now he’s doing Josie. These are all great pop tunes, and most people would recognize them all immediately -- they’re timeless. And interestingly, they’re almost all based on simple blues forms, usually only slightly altered.

It’s fantastic to hear Fagen speak this much, too. For a jazz musician, the concepts he’s discussing are not at all advanced. However, it’s totally instructive to watch the simple, open voicings he uses on the piano and keyboard to create his unique sound. If I were a better keyboardist, I’d be playing along with it to get it fully under my fingers. It’s too late to pull out my horn and start blowing over this right now, though. :(