Today is going to be a fun day in live sound land! I get to work with one of my favorite bands, Aja, who play the music of Steely Dan and do it amazingly well.
This gig is kinda bittersweet because some of the key members of the band have moved or will be moving and I'm not sure whether or not the band will be able to continue in it's current configuration. I hope that they can figure out some way to keep it going; they've got too much time invested and sound too good to just let it die, but hey, it's hard to find work for a 10-piece band full of busy top-notch players.
Technically, they would have to be considered a "tribute" band (which I'm generally not all that fond of) but I gotta say, these guys and gals do it just right. At one end of the "tribute spectrum" are the bands that try and be exactly like the originals to the point of dressing exactly like the particular band member they are to portray. This is more like acting/impersonation to me rather than music which is fine, but theater and music are not the same disciplines, so I'm out.
What Aja does particularly well is pay homage to the original flavor of the music without trying to play "transcriptions" of the recordings. A perfect example is some of the Steely Dan guitar solos. This music has been around long enough that everybody knows those solos well, at least the opening few licks. So what Aja does is play the opening few licks of solos in a style that is very similar to the original in note choice and rhythm which captures the correct flavor of that moment, but also allows the player the freedom to improvise and be creative in the solo the way solos should be. Very few people actually know the solos all the way through note for note so this is the perfect balance of familiarity for the audience and player creativity.
This same concept is carried out through all the parts in all the songs; soooo many times I've heard audience members exclaim to the band after a show, "It was just like sitting there and listening to the record!" Actually, if you compared the two side-by-side they wouldn't be all that similar, only the really important identifiable parts are, and that's what makes this band great: their ability to instinctively know what's a key part, and what's something that can be embellished.
Since this might be an important show, I think I'm gonna multi-track record this one; you just never know...
UPDATE: here's a rough mix of one of the tunes from that performance