“The New Breed” has some familiar yet high quality elements expected in a Fagen song. In fact, the song on first listen seems deceptively simple. William Galison reappears to lay down a few tasty harmonica lines. For this track, he used a bass harmonica, which has a unique character that fired up producers Fagen and Michael Leonhart. As Galison recalled on this space in 2012:
…to make up for its ergonomic shortcomings, the instrument produces a distinctive and memorable sound; somewhere between the grunt of a bullfrog and the tone of those buzzers that go off when you give a wrong answer on Jeopardy.
Despite its limitations however, the bass harp can be the perfect sound for certain musical situations. And the most amazing thing about the instrument is that every single time I bring it to a session and I toot a note, the producer says “wow, that’s incredible! We have to use that!” and then they find some place on the album for which the bass harmonica is just the thing.
And so it was with Don and Michael. One puff on the bass harmonica and they lit up. Michael had the idea to double the bass part on sections of “The New Breed”, and as the line was chromatic and syncopated and impossible to play live, we patiently pieced the part together, a few notes at a time. The sound is subtle in the mix, but it works!
Jay Leonhart, the jazz bassist/humorist and father of Michael and Carolyn Leonhart, provides a firm yet flexible acoustic bass backdrop for the song while Fagen and Michael Leonhart’s merry men provide a horn flourish which is close enough to Steely Dan.
Lyrically, Fagen tells a dandy little story of his slinky thing being unfaithful with a hipster computer geek. In classic Fagen style, instead of pleading for the little tart to stay, he pushes her out the door.
I guess you can take the girl out of the ghetto but you can’t quite take the ghetto out of the girl, but let’s not jump ahead…
Latest posts by Preston Frazier (see all)
- Yes, “Looking Around” from Yes (1969): YESterdays - March 31, 2015
- Jose James – Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday (2015) - March 25, 2015
- Toto, “Manuela Run” from Toto (1978): Toto Tuesdays - March 24, 2015