Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Donald Fagen - Concepts for Jazz/Rock Piano DVD|
Actor: Donald Fagen
Director: Happy Traum
Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
Gain rare insight into the musical thinking of one of the most influential popular songwriters and arrangers in America. Donald Fagen analyses three Steely Dan hits ("Chain Lightning," "Peg," "Josie") and two solo works fr... more »
Great addition to the library of any true Steely Dan fan
Dave | United States | 02/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you're looking for a DVD that truly "puts the focus on the music", you'll be in for a treat with Donald Fagen's "Concepts For Jazz/Rock Piano". I will point out that if you're someone who likes to listen to great music, yet isn't super interested in its actual writing/ arranging process, you will probably find your attention wandering during portions of this DVD. On the other hand, although this is an 'instructional' DVD, any Steely Dan/ Donald Fagen fan should certainly be able to derive enjoyment from this for the marvelously rich sound of Fagen's classy piano playing. Fagen's 'sidekick' on here is Warren Bernhardt, a man who played live with Fagen supporting the "Kamakiriad" album in 1993, the same year this video/ DVD was originally recorded. The songs that are given in-depth musical analysis here are Steely Dan's "Chain Lightning", "Peg", & "Josie", plus "On the Dunes" & "Teahouse On the Tracks" from Fagen's "Kamakiriad"; sheet music is supplied for these 5 tracks as well. Not coincidentally, the aforementioned Steely Dan songs are 3 of their most overtly blues-based, & Fagen shows how traditional blues ideas were tinkered with to ultimately create these masterful compositions. For the most part Fagen is on piano with Bernhardt on electric piano--they do swap positions for "Josie"--& they're playing is a joy to watch & listen to. Indeed, plenty of time is devoted to straight up musical performances from Fagen & Bernhardt, and they're conveniently indexed, which is ideal if you're not in the mood for the talk. You consistently get a bird's-eye view of Fagen's hands so you can actually watch what he's playing, something that can be of frustration to certain viewers as far as certain live concert videos/ DVDs are concerned. Although you don't generally hear Donald Fagen or his Steely Dan co-hort/ writing partner Walter Becker's names when great songwriters are mentioned, these guys are really on a whole different plateau as far as "pop songwriters" go, which is made abundantly clear by viewing this DVD--the harmonic/ chord ideas are incredibly sophisticated, yet have a way of making perfect musical sense--something that Fagen himself makes reference to--a big part of what makes their music so endlessly fresh & compulsively listenable. That said, Donald Fagen is an ideal person to do a DVD of this nature, & if you're blown away by Steely Dan's sophisticated, yet irresistible songwriting, this is a must-have video/ DVD. Fagen clearly knows his stuff--he uses lots of sophisticated musical terminology, speaking seriously, yet vibrantly; he's in great spirit on here--you really don't get the slightest sense of Don & Walter's trademark sarcasm. Warren Bernhardt, a jazz pianist who played live shows with Fagen in 1993 following "Kamakiriad"'s release, is clearly an excellent, tasteful musician who seems super thrilled to be doing this DVD with Fagen--he lavishes Fagen with a load of praise and unfortunately does tend to be rather corny in his offhand remarks, plus he annoyingly seems to be trying to one-up Fagen at times when analyzing the compositions (to be sympathetic, the guy may have just been nervous), but on the other hand, Bernhardt does do a respectable job of interacting with Fagen & bringing even more out of him than he may have otherwise delivered. So, there are Bernhardt's occasional annoyances, plus the list price of this is quite high (though ironically, not as high as the VHS version). Still though, if you can get this for even a relatively cheap price, it's not a bad deal at all--the DVD runs 70 solid minutes & the positives steamroll the slight negatives of the actual DVD content which is highly informative and compulsively watchable/ listenable. Ultimately, any true Steely Dan fan will find "Concepts For Jazz/Rock Piano" a real treat, & it makes for a very nice companion to Steely Dan's "Aja" installment in the "Classic Albums" video/ DVD series."
Donald, the Genius
Galla Miklos | Hungary | 10/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of course I'm biased because I'm an incredibly big fan of Steely Dan and Mr Fagen's solo work. But why am I biased? Is he a family member of mine? No. Am I getting paid? No. I'm biased because I few years ago I realised how unbelievably original and mesmerising his (their) music is. What NASA rocket scientists are to science are Fagen and Becker to rock music. Along with Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk they are the most intelligent people in popular music. They are the only act in rock where the actual quality of the composition itself doesn't count that much because the atmosphere they create is so endearing and desirable. And if you put Donald's or Walter's latest solo albums (Morph The Cat and Circus Money respectively) in your CD-player, they sound so good they actually upgrade the quality of your hi-fi system. So for me obviously anything is welcome wholeheartedly by these people. Even a lecture DVD that is supposed to teach the viewer how to play, write and arrange. Well, Donald tries his best to explain seriously how some of his songs were born, talks about blues and jazz influences, which in a way is hilarious because the truth lies in the crucial line that he DOESN'T say: "The songs are incredibly great because I'm really, really talented. In fact I'm a genius." But he wouldn't say that, would he? And of course he couldn't go on for 70 minutes saying: "This chord sequence is so original because I'm a very inventive composer. I just know how to do it." Who would learn anything from that? Anyway, it's nice to watch him play the piano from an above angle, so you can actually see what notes he's playing. If you know and love these songs in their original form, you're going to like these two-keyboard versions too. My only disappointment is that he doesn't sing. The melody parts are played by piano too. But I suppose this DVD is intended to educate rather than to entertain. In the end I think it does both.
Miklos Galla, comedian/actor/songwriter, Hungary"