A Zoom with Steely Dan’s Rhythm Section

Photo: Zoom screenshot by David Fabel

This past Tuesday I had the unique opportunity to be on a Zoom meeting with an exclusive group of iconic rhythm section players, that is, drummers and bass players, who played on albums and live with the legendary band, Steely Dan. I wanted to share the experience. If you’re wondering what this has to do with local bands and venues, well, know this…each and every one of these musicians started out playing in a local music scene.

For fans of Steely Dan, you’ll know this is not an exhaustive list of the drummers and bass players who played with them through the years, there have been many hired guns. However, leave no doubt, this line-up are considered some of the very best at their craft in the world. On the Zoom were drummers Steve Gadd, Keith Carlock, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, and Dennis Chamber. Representing the bass players were Victor Wooton, Chuck Rainey, Anthony Jackson, Tom Barney, and Freddie Washington. Literally a who’s who line-up. Also joining the Zoom a little late, and surprising everyone, was legendary sound mixer, Elliot Scheiner. He’s the guy who mixed all of Steely Dan’s albums. Some of the stories he told had not been shared before.

There were remarkable behind-the-scenes recounted memories, anecdotes, and other tidbits of information about how some of Steely Dan’s best known tracks came to be…for songs like Aja, Kid Charlemagne, Babylon Sisters, and Glamour Profession, among others. What truly stood out were the memories from their days rehearsing and working in the local studios of NYC and LA. It wasn’t about the world stage, rather what made this get-together so great was their ability to tell stories that were truly local in nature…discussing family, friends, and industry personnel when they were simply practicing or preparing to record. Some of the stories were told for the very first time. It really felt like you were sitting at a local bar with friends and sharing stories.

The Zoom reinforced that local communities are a foundational aspect of the entire music and entertainment experience. Some of the greatest stories never told, or shared by only a select few, happen in small close quarters, like homes, studios, or in your neighborhood. The local music scene was the backbone for all of these musicians, and without it, we would never have had the musical treasures of Steely Dan the way we hear them today.

If you had a chance to do a Zoom with cast of characters, who would you love to be on a call with?

2 thoughts on “A Zoom with Steely Dan’s Rhythm Section

  • What an absolute treat that must have been. I have had the opportunity to sit in on a few Zoom calls with some pretty iconic Casting Directors. They had fun telling stories about meeting some future A List celebrities, that was really entertaining. The nice thing about Zoom is that we have become so familiar with it, that people seem at ease while on those calls. It is almost like you have been invited into their homes. I guess virtually, you have been invited in.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • While these are difficult times, Julie, no doubt, memories that are created during this era of life will remain with us forever. I’m sure you learned something sitting in on the calls with the legends in your industry. Good stuff.

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