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Local band says, "Steely Dan - no problem."Posted Sunday, March 15, 2009, at 1:09 PM
There's a very good reason you don't just walk in off the street and into any 'ole local club and hear any 'ole local band performing the music of Steely Dan.
First off,a deep listen to the lyrics makes you wonder just what was going on in the twisted world of Donald Fagan and Walter Becker. And if it's hard to grasp some of the subject matter in the duo's tunes, it's probably twice as hard to sing them up on the bandstand.
Second, there's the little matter of the musicians that actually played on Steely Dan's albums. They were a who's-who of first call jazz musicians, including the likes of Jim Keltner, Chuck Rainey and Larry Carlton, to name just a few.
But, as I soon heard after walking into a live-music venue in Batesville recently, I discovered that there is a local group capable of pulling off Steely Dan - along with other daunting selections from iconic bands like The Meters and Jimi Hendrix' Band of Gypsies.
And to move things up a notch on the degree of difficulty scale, that band that I heard in Batesville is just a three-piece band.
That band is The Jessie Orr band.
And they flat-out tore up Steely Dan's "Josie," the closing track from Fagan/Becker's amazing 1977 album, Aja.
Kris Jaggars' driving, thumping pop-and-slap bass echoed the sound of Chuck Rainey's performance on the original, and while it most definitely held down the rock-solid groove, Jaggars' bass riffing almost acted like another lead instrument bopping along.
Jim Keltner was legendary for his unflappable rhythmic instincts and was also the master of the "get-there-in-a-hurry-but don't-rush" approach to the skins. And to this, drummer Rick Pitchford does the same for The Jessie Orr Band. Moving the song along, but never letting it run out of control. Steady, sure-handed and relaxed - that's Pitchford on the kit.
And then there's the ringleader of this up-and-coming young trio - guitarist and vocalist Jessie Austin Orr.
Wringing out the clock-like chimes of the opening bars of "Josie" from his red Fender Strat, it's obvious that Orr has attended plenty of sessions at The School of Carlton. By the time the solo break comes around, one's ears are practically watering for what comes next. And what does come next is the spidery bliss of smooth jazz, peppered with a hot-shot of rock-n-roll courtesy of Orr's nimble fingers, cause "we're gonna rev up the motorscooters when Josie comes home to stay."
And that's just the beginning.
The trio also hammers out rib-stickin' versions of The Meters' "Cissy Strut," and Band of Gypsies "Them Changes," along with gut-bucket blues standards like "Worried Life Blues" and "The Red Rooster."
If you want the hair on the back of your arms to stand straight up, just give a listen to the way Orr coaxes a bunch of slippery, swampy gumbo out of his bottleneck during the solo on "Red Rooster." A mix of Sonny Landreth with his own mission statement woven right in.
You can check out The Jessie Orr band doing "The Red Rooster" from their appearance at a recent KASU Blue Monday performance in Paragould at www.getroadworn.com.
While you're there, sign up as a fan and cast your vote for The Jessie Orr Band in the contest that Fender Guitars is sponsoring.
Along with invaluable exposure to the world at large, bands entered into the contest can also win a truckload of gear.
The field of bands has been cut down from thousands to the top 100, and The Jessie Orr Band has made the cut.
The group also can be found at www.myspace.com/thejessieorrband. You can check out their performance schedule, hear more music, or order copies of Jessie's CD.
Get out and support live, local music.
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Since my own high school sports career fizzled out before it really reached its zenith, I have managed to live vicariously through the student/athletes of the 16 high schools I've covered for Areawide Media since 2001. I've witnessed the highest of highs in the form of state championships. I have also seen first-hand the sting of disappointment when the ultimate prize was within reach, but still eluded the grasp of its pursuer. But through all the ups and downs associated with high school sports, my respect for the young competitors that suit up each night, along with the men and women who guide them, remains unwavering. Blog mission: With my passion for music, especially live music, running second only to my passion for sports, I'll try to devote this space to both. Especially when it concerns our region and what's happening around it. Look for commentary and features on area sports figures and musicians, along with things to get out and do in the beautiful Spring River/Ozarks area. But I'll not totally ignore the outside - I'll also hit on some national happenings in the wide worlds of sports and music.