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Garden Party: No Static at All: An Instrumental Tribute to Steely Dan

Tribute albums rarely are above being needless retreads and few find new inspiration in the work of a groundbreaking artist. No Static at All: An Instrumental Tribute to Steely Dan (Samson Records GC 0195-2; 49:18) is one of those rarities, utilizing marquee talents to build on the pop icons’ solidly jazzy threads, and in the best cases, re-examine classic pieces from unique perspectives. Samson label exec Steve Barri, who originally signed Steely Dan way back when, conceived of the project, bringing together such luminaries as Jeff Lorber, Roger Smith and Dave Koz under the moniker Garden Party. The classy material, for the most part, brings out creative streaks in these big name players. “Do It Again,” for example, is lent exotic percussive colors and old-school soul by Lorber’s alternating Hammond B-3 and Fender Rhodes, while saxophonist Warren Hill hits some of his most inspired soul pipes. “Peg” is faithfully brisk and heady, with guitarist Doc Powell playing sweetly clipped chords, while “Hey Nineteen” is marked by knuckleball rhythms and Tony Guerrero’s hard horn hits. Other experiments are admirable but lose some of the original charm in the process. The pace is slowed for a Caribbean-influenced walk on “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” which is drawn out by a slightly slicker Hill, for example. However, occasional lapses are far outweighed by the collection’s true inspirations, like a prickly, rock-styled “Josie,” featuring guitarist Chieli Minicci and an understated Koz, and the brassy, joyful “Reelin’ in the Years,” with the wide-swinging fervor of saxophonist Eddie M. and keyboardist Smith.

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