By Bernard Perusse
Rating: 4 stars
If there’s an opposite to smoke and mirrors, Donald Fagen continues to hunt for it on his fourth solo album in 30 years. There’s plenty of space here for all instruments to find a spot, with no players crowding the others out and all of them in service to the leisurely, insistent, funky grooves spread out through the disc’s nine songs.
And yet there seems to be more going on in this typically jazzy Fagen set than you can find in a dozen densely-produced contemporary pop or R&B releases. As he always did with partner Walter Becker in Steely Dan, Fagen makes tricky little twists and turns sound so simple and natural that you barely notice them.
With his co-producer and principal musical collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Michael Leonhart, Fagen adopts a less-is-more approach. Even when soloists move to the foreground, as guitarist Jon Herington and harmonica player William Galison occasionally do, there’s a sense that everyone must leave plenty of breathing room.
Next year will mark a decade since Fagen and Becker have entered the studio to record some new material. While we’re waiting, discs like this seem close enough to having a new Steely Dan album in our lives. Now there’s a bonus.