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I really debated on whether this recording belongs in the series; this cut from the movie soundtrack for Arthur 2: On the Rocks is jointly credited to the song’s only performers: Steve Khan and Donald Fagen. Furthermore, it’s a Thelonious Monk cover. And lastly, Khan’s tasty jazz guitars dominate this session. Fagen is little more than a sideman on someone else’s song.
Ultimately, though, “Reflections” deserves its own Sunday within a fairly complete examination of the music of Fagen and Walter Becker, because sometimes much can be revealed about an artist when he’s put into a setting that’s unusual for him. An instrumental classic jazz cover is unusual for Fagen, but not without precedence. We know he loves that kind of stuff, but we rarely get to hear him play it.
“Reflections” is an intimate tune as Monk performs it solo piano on Alone in San Francisco (1959), in contrast to his earlier, swinging recording of it with Max Roach and Gary Mapp back in ’52. It’s a fair guess that Fagen and Khan used the later version as the inspiration for their own take on it. Khan’s rich acoustic plucking traces Monk’s piano tinkling, and it’s a great showcase for both his acoustic and jazzier sides. Fagen is mainly merely supplying a wash of chords with a synth, although his brief note-bending synth solo does sound like the same guy who solo’ed on “Hey Nineteen.”
Thus, Fagen’s parts on the song give it away that this is an 80s recording. It would have worked fine with Khan alone, but Fagen’s synthesizer does adds some warmth, a reversal from what that instrument usually does to a song. You don’t get much of a sense of what a jazz improvisor he his from this song — it’s Khan’s show, really — but Fagen clearly understands Thelonious Monk better than your average Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer.
“Reflections” by Steve Khan and Donald Fagen
“Reflections” by Thelonious Monk
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