Steely Dan Sunday, "Night By Night" (1974)

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photo source: Steely Dan Database

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

“Night By Night” falls right in the middle of the best three song sequence on any Steely Dan album. Last week we took the occasion of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” to reflect on the genius of Jim Gordon. If Jim Gordon was the heir to Hal Blaine as the king of session drummers, then Jeff Porcaro might be considered the successor to Gordon, and the transition from the old king to the new one began on this record. Gordon drummed on nearly all of the tracks of Pretzel Logic, but the then-eighteen year old Porcaro handled “Night By Night,” which was one hell of an assignment for a kid fresh out of high school. This funky little number is so tight because of the precision Becker and Fagen prescribed for this tune, and the job for setting the rigid tempo fell on Porcaro. By this time, Porcaro, who had already gigged for Sonny and Cher’s TV show, would soon be drumming alongside Jim Hodder in the Countdown To Ecstasy Tour.

Centered around Porcaro’s dead-on elliptical beat, everything else was fitted around it like pieces of machinery: the three horn section, the between-the-accents guitar chords and the so 1974 clavinet that served more for percussion purposes than for the notes. Even Fagen’s vocal fit into this meticulously crafted pocket, his line endings alternately syncing up perfectly with that rhythm guitar (listen for it on “poor man”, “mayhem” “rube town” and “shotgun”…genius stuff there). And remarkable as Skunk’s guitar solo on the prior cut “Rikki”…some would say, “legendary”…I think he outdid himself on “Night.” Crisp, blues lines with a couple of octaves snuck in the middle, and just inventive and sharp as his usual self. Only more so.

As for Porcaro, there will be plenty of other times to wax poetic about his contributions to SD albums. He was The Man on Katy Lied and other key cuts after that album. In a band full of great players, Porcaro was the best at his instrument relative to the rest of the guys in Toto, a claim not lightly made as there was also this guy Steve Lukather in the group. But understanding just how deadgummed great Porcaro was begins with getting underneath some Steely Dan tracks, like this one.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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