SOMETIMES it is magical to be immersed – soaked – in dripping nostalgia. To be swept away by music that framed youth in a different age. When Facebook, Twitter and Tinder had not been invented and vinyl ruled the airwaves.
Acclaimed drummer Jeremy Stacey sprinkled such magic dust by the kilogram at the 606 Jazz club on April 5 when he oversaw a tribute night to legendary American band Steely Dan. An evening that will remain long in the memory of those who packed the Chelsea based club – dining space and bar – to the rafters. Friends of Stacey and the band, fellow musicians, Steely Dan diehards and lots more besides.
Stacey triumphed, but not without an army of talented musical assistants to stand four-square behind him. Indeed, make that thirteen-square – a troupe of pianists, guitarists, a percussionist, a triumvirate of backing vocalists and a marvellous horns section.
There were so many that they could not all get onto 606’s stage – with the two saxophonists, trumpeter and trombonists parking themselves just outside the toilets. Chaotic yes, but chaotic brilliance. Clapham Junction at rush hour on a Monday morning. Tracks well and lesser known came thick and fast like waves in a huge storm. A thrilling ride.
So, hits such as Hey Nineteen, Reelin’ In The Years, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, Deacon Blues and Dirty Work were interwoven with lesser known Steely Dan tunes such as Glamour Profession, Time Out Of Mind and Black Cow. Not once did the pace, dictated by Stacey, let up. A furious and joyous musical procession.
While Stacey marshalled the troupe, it was the enthusiastic Andy Caine on vocals who gave the night’s proceedings Steely Dan authenticity. Shut your eyes for one moment in amongst the pandemonium and you could almost envisage yourself blasted back to the 1970s as Donald Fagen held forth. Husky and gravelly. The fact that Caine, armed with a guitar, managed to complete the first set without his trousers falling to his knees – he had forgotten his belt – was a feat in itself.
Everyone that Stacey had persuaded to join him on stage – and next to the toilets – had their moment to bask in Steely Dan glory. None more so than Stacey’s brother Paul whose playing of the electric guitar was Clapton like. He lifted Kid Charlemagne, My Old School and Aja a level or three – from magnificent to sublime. All the time, he quietly chewed away on his gum as if he did not have a care in the world (maybe he didn’t). On Throw Back The Little Ones, his guitar purred like a Tom Cat who has just seen the pussy cat of his dreams.
Stand out in the horns section were saxophonists Jim Hunt and Andy Ross (the closest to the loos) who excelled on Aja and Black Cow.
As for the backing vocals, led by Sumudu Jayatilaka and supported with gusto by Louise Clare Marshall, they thrilled on tracks aplenty, including Babylon Sisters, Hey 19, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, Kid Charlemagne and Time Out Of Mind. Sumudu led the way on Dirty Work and did not disappoint. Backing vocalists who obviously enjoyed every minute of being on stage.
With Gary Sanctuary and Dave Arch providing splendid support on keyboards and piano, the Steely Dan tribute night was a winner. As for Jeremy Stacey, who took something of a backseat role, he showed off his talents on Aja, a virtuoso performance that got the 606 audience off their feet to applaud his dexterous skills.
Nights like this do not come along that often. A performance from a group of musicians who lived up to the Steely Dan name and reeled in the years. The sense of triumph was reflected in the buzz that emanated from the audience after every track.
Stand out track? Babylon Sister by a whisker but I am sure others present on this magical 606 night would beg to differ.
Hey Nineteen? Hey Jeremy Stacey. Hey 606.