"Hey! How come I never heard of this Hoops McCann guy?,"you ask.
"what does he play?" If you're a Steely Danophile you recognize Hoops McCann as
a character in the lyrics of 'Glamour Profession' from the Gaucho album (MCA-6102). The
Hoops McCann Band was first assembled to perform in the summer of '82 at The First Annual
Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz, a threee day event on the campus of Mt. Hood Community College
in Gresham, Oregon, a pebble's throw from Portland. The audience response, coupled with
the critical acclaim that ensued, was so encouraging that Hoops McCann not only came
alive, it stays alive.
You can say it's chemistry. You can say it's a special kind of love
affair. Or that it's in the believing. It really doesn't matter what you say. What does
matter is that here is a wedding of talent that will knock you out! Hoops has already
thrilled the guys who wrote the music, those who performed it, and, particularly, the
Executive Producer, Dick LaPalm, whose mission it has been to make the public more aware
of the depth and sigificance of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, aka Steely Dan. Dick is
not only a friend and associate of Donald and Walter, but he is the originator of this
special project. This is a role for which he has had much practice, having spent his
entire adult life in the music business, both in and out of the recording studio, where he
has consorted with the giants. All with whom Dick has worked have come to know his
favorite axiom, "It can never be too good."
Most of the members of this Hoops McCann Band were in the original
cast in 1982. The few who were not charter members have all beenm in the studio for Steely
Dan recordings. So, there are no strangers here, only believers whose faith is amply
expressed by the cohesiveness and enthusiasm of these performances. This is music of
the highest order, music that begs for repeated listenings, the better to savor the full
dimension of The Hoops McCann Band. Joe Roccisano, who wrote all but two of the eight
charts performed here, also conducted the band in the studio. It's easy to understand why
Joe's reputation has prospered so dramatically and why he is in such great demand.
'Babylon Sisters' was arranged by the late Victor Feldman, a charter member of the Hoops
McCann Band and an integral part of all the Steely Dan recordings. Finally, 'Glamour
Profession', enjoys the big band patina of this arrangement by Gene Esposito.
These compositions appeard in their original form on Steely Dan
recordings, except for 'Rapunzel' which was composed for the Pete Christlieb-Warne Marsh
Quintet album, Apogee, a 1978 Warner brothers release which was produced by
Donald and Walter and, unfortunately, long since deleted from the catalouge.
Interestingly, it was the same Joe Roccisano who did the arrangements for the Apogee
date in 1978. To bring yet another sense of history to these present proceedings, it was
Dick LaPalm who came up with the album title, Apogee. Thus, the seeds of The
Hoops McCann Band have been cooking for a long time, slow cooking for that choice taste.
It's not by accident that each Steely Dan album had more than a
reasonable number of jazzmen on the date. Walter and Donald come to their disposition for
jazz quite naturally. They grew up in the New York City environs which allowed them the
privilege of the jazz programming that abounded on radio in New York at the time. In that
regard, Donald and Walter recently did a retrospective of Jazz Radio in New York in The
Sixties. On that program, aired on WBAI-FM in New York, they paid homage to the many air
personalities who, through their programming, had shaped their attitudes about music in
general and jazz in particular. They were quick to agree what a fertile time it was for
jazz on the airwaves, stating how deeply they each were influenced by what they heard as
youngsters. As one who spent his all night hours playing jazz on the radio in New York in
The Sixties, I'm grateful for the nice things they said about me and my colleagues of that
era. I'm particularly pleased that they chose to use my old theme, 'Woofin' and Tweetin'
as the theme music for their program.
To conclude, what we have here is a meaningful exploration by The
Hoops McCann Band of the music of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who, as Steely Dan, set
the culture on its ear with thie music and their performances on record. It raises an
interesting speculation: How much more dominant might they be if they made personal
appearances? I submit that it's far too early to determine the ultimate influence that
Donald and Walter will exercise on the musicmakers to come. My gut tells me that they will
be regarded with increasing esteem with each successive exposure of their writing. To The
Hoops McCann Band, under the baton of Joe Roccisano, I say BRAVO! You have played this
wonderful music with fire, delicacy, gusto and devotion. The excellence you have achieved
only makes me embarrased to talk about it. All I want to do is to listen to it.