“Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan (1977)

13 04 2009

It wasn’t until I got older that I started really appreciating Steely Dan.  I knew who they were from their radio hits (“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Do It Again,” “Reelin’ in the Years,” etc.), but I didn’t really appreciate the smooth, smart sophistication of their music.  Steely Dan is led by Walter Becker and Donald Fagan, two wildly inventive musicians who assembled some fantastic groups of session musicians to create great albums, including my favorite, “Aja,” from which this track comes.

I’ve always loved the gorgeous sax arrangement, including the loose but intense solo, and it wasn’t until a few days ago that found out who played that part:  Pete Christlieb.

Now here’s the thing that knocked me down about that discovery (other than feeling like a fool for not knowing the musicians on these great recordings):  When I was in my high school jazz band, Mr. Christlieb visited my school to talk to us and to sit in with our band for a couple of tunes.  I had no idea that he was the man who laid down that great solo, mostly because I wasn’t really aware of the song at the time.  But for the next 20 years or so, I’ve really enjoyed the track and its horn “section”— never realizing that I once played alongside the very artist who did it!

I was lucky to have a pretty good music program in my public school, but that’s not the case for most schools, especially with the massive cuts our schools have had to endure.  Yes, our kids need to learn the basic subjects like math and English and science, but they also need exposure to other things like art and music.  They also need to know about different avenues they can travel in life.  Some kids are just not that great at academic subjects, but they may find their calling elsewhere.

We need to make sure our schools have everything they need to educate and provide opportunity for our kids.

So here’s Steely Dan, featuring the blazing tenor sax of Pete Christlieb, a supporter of public schools.  And former bandmate of your daddy.  Um, sorta.



(Thanks to Melegorm for the video upload to YouTube)

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