(c) all rights reserved · Coloring Club · music

Coloring Club Plus — 10/9/19

Oct 9

Interestingly, this song was written about a Korean woman, but the coloring is a Japanese geisha (and a Japanese model graces the album cover) and Chinese music is mentioned in the lyrics.  Please excuse the mish-mash, but there is an Eastern Asian flavor to the song so I think it works.  Aja makes me weep with its beauty every time I hear it.  The jazz fusion elements, superior musicianship, the impeccable arrangement, Fagen’s voice, and the dreamy, wistful lyrics make this song as close to perfect as a song can get.

Aja (album) is the sixth studio album by the jazz rock band Steely Dan, released on September 3, 1977. It was the band’s first platinum album and ultimately became their best-selling studio release, eventually selling over 5 million copies. In July 1978, it won the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording. The credits for Aja list nearly 40 musicians, as band leaders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker pushed Steely Dan further into experimenting with different combinations of session players.

In 2003, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and ranked number 145 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list, maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list. The album is often cited as one of the best test recordings for audiophiles, due to its high production standards.

In 2010 the Library of Congress selected Aja for inclusion in the United States National Recording Registry based on its cultural, artistic or historical significance. The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Aja is the subject of one of the Classic Albums, a series of documentaries about the making of famous albums. The documentary includes a song-by-song study of the album (the only omission being “I Got the News”, which is played during the closing credits), interviews with Steely Dan co-founders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (among others) plus new, live-in-studio versions of songs from the album. Becker and Fagen also play back several of the rejected guitar solos for “Peg”, which were recorded before Jay Graydon produced the satisfactory take. Guess what I was able to find on youtube??? Yep, the whole documentary episode on Aja, here.

“Aja” (song) is a jazz rock song, with elements of jazz fusion and progressive rock. Despite its complexity, and unlike most of the other tracks on the album, “Aja” took a very short time to record, which Steely Dan credit to the musicians’ ability to learn it quickly, without rehearsals. Denny Dias’s guitar work, including a solo, marked the last appearance on a Steely Dan record by any other founding member of the group. On the other hand, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter and drummer Steve Gadd made their first appearances here. Both play solos during the song’s instrumental break that have contributed greatly to its reputation, solos which have been considered among their finest work; Gadd’s, the first drum solo in a Steely Dan song, in the song’s tag, was recorded in just two takes. Jazz critic Ben Sidran later called the recording session “a moment when … pop music suddenly took a turn left.

While many interpretations of the song follow Fagen’s account of its origins and assume Aja is a woman, “the word seems to be shorthand for peace, exotica, the alluring other, perhaps even death,” writes Breithaupt. “The lyrics paint Aja as a nonspecific, though certainly eastern, place far from the worlds of celebrity, commerce, even linear time—a place in which a troubled spirit might find solace.”


Up on the hill
People never stare
They just don’t care
Chinese music under banyan trees
Here at the dude ranch above the sea
When all my dime dancin’ is through
I run to you

Up on the hill
They’ve got time to burn
There’s no return
Double helix in the sky tonight
Throw out the hardware
Let’s do it right
When all my dime dancin’ is through
I run to you

Up on the hill
They think I’m okay
Or so they say
Chinese music always sets me free
Angular banjos
Sound good to me
When all my dime dancin’ is through
I run to you
Songwriters: Donald Jay Fagen / Walter Carl Becker

13 thoughts on “Coloring Club Plus — 10/9/19

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