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The Dukes of September Interviews

"This is a thrill," said Scaggs, who like his bandmates is using this tour as a break before preparing new solo material. "This is a chance that we don't get very often ... But you know this is a real opportunity for us and our audiences to see something special, and that's the way I think that we all carry into this."

 

Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald = The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue

The Players: Jon Herington, - lead guitar, Freddie Washington - bass, Jim Beard - organ, Michael White - drums, Walt Weiskopf - saxophone, Jay Collins - saxophone, Michael Leonhart - trumpet, Catherine Russell - backup vocals, Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery - backup vocals
Set Lists


amNewYork

December 05, 2010

The Oakland Press Interview

September 4, 2010

Cincinnati CityBeat Interview

September 3, 2010

Detroit News Interview  

September 2, 2010

Minneapolis Star Tribune

September 3, 2010

St. Paul Pioneer Press Interview

September 2, 2010

Boston Herald Interview

August 31, 2010

Concert Live-Wire Interview

August 30, 2010

Reverb Music Blog

August 24, 2010

NJ Star-Ledger Interview

July 20, 2010

SoundSpike Interview

June 16, 2010

Billboard Interview

June 14, 2010



amNew York

'70s rock icons honor the songs they love

By Hal Bienstock 12/5/10

When musicians who have sold tens of millions of records and created at least a dozen staples of classic rock radio team up for a tour, it usually means one thing: They’re trying to cash in by playing their greatest hits yet again.

As the Dukes of September, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, The Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, are taking a different approach. Instead of focusing on their own catalogs, they’re mostly playing music they grew up loving. We talked with McDonald.

Help Me, Rhonda
The Beach Boys
“Beach Boys songs are great. They have a uniqueness in that they’re a quirky rock and roll band meets barbershop quartet. In its own way, it’s a sophisticated form of pop music.”

The Shape I’m In
The Band
“The Band was steeped in blues and country and ragtime, but it came out as something new and different. I used to play this song with a band I’d throw together in the little town in Tennessee I was living in. We’d play school fundraisers.”

Shakedown Street
Grateful Dead
“This one was Donald’s idea. It was a surprise to me. I never followed the Dead that much, but they made a huge mark, not only with their music ... but their whole approach.”

Love Train
The O’Jays
“It’s just a crowd pleaser. It’s one of those great old-time encore songs. We wanted to make sure we tipped a hat to the O’Jays and all those great [Philly] soul groups.”

Them Changes
Buddy Miles
“It has a ferocious groove and is representative of the R&B and blues scene in San Francisco in the ’60s.”



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The Oakland Press Interview

All-star team revamped as The Dukes of September

By GARY GRAFF
For Journal Register Newspapers / The Oakland Press
September 4, 2010

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen says the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue, his all-star teaming with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, “had a little trouble finding a name” for their current concert tour when the three first decided to hit the road together.

They had done it before, as the New York Rock & Soul Revue in 1992. But this time, Fagen says, “we wanted to call it something different,” and there was a lengthy discourse before the trio finally settled on the Dukes moniker.

“I think we started out with The ‘Theme From Sea Hunt’ Rhythm Revue, but that didn’t get universal acclaim,” Fagen, 62, deadpans. “We went through a few names, but I think The Dukes sounds like something from the ’50s, when we were kids. And September sort of refers to advancing years and is kind of an allusion to our collective ages — plus, we’re going out in September.

“It’s a little ... complicated. But that’s basically the way it worked out.”

Fans of the three veteran performers, meanwhile, probably don’t care as much about the name as the simple fact that they’re out together again. The New York Rock & Soul Revue, besides being a hoot in which they played their own songs and select rock and R&B covers, was also the launch pad for the revival of Steely Dan after guitarist Walter Becker joined that tour. Becker is nowhere to be found this time. “He’s busy with is own project, a solo project, right now,” Fagen says. But The Dukes are confident that plenty of musical magic will indeed happen in September.

“For us it’s like a great escape,” explains McDonald, 58, who logged time in Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers during the ’70s and early ’80s before launching a solo career in 1982 that’s included a pair of Motown cover albums. “It’s kind of a luxurious opportunity to do what we would have the most fun doing.

“We all have fun going out as Steely Dan or Boz or Michael McDonald ... but it largely consists of our own records being reproduced live. This is more fun for us, in a way, and hopefully not too self-indulgent. I think the audience enjoys it, too.”

Fagen adds that “for me it’s a total no-stress thing because the focus isn’t so much on me. I just get to play without it being so much of a job in a certain way. It’s a lot of fun.” And Scaggs, 66, a founding member of the Steve Miller Band before going solo in 1968, is equally enthusiastic about the collaboration.

“It’s a real thrill to be able to work with a couple of artists who have mutual respect for each other and come out of the same musical place,” he explains. “This is a chance that we don’t get very often. This is a real opportunity for us and our audiences to see something special, and that’s the way I think that we all carry into this.”

And, being the pragmatist, Scaggs adds that touring as The Dukes is also “good for business.”

“I’m getting to see an audience that I wouldn’t necessarily get to see on my own, and maybe some of the same things are happening with” Fagen and McDonald, he says.

The lure of the show for all concerned, performers and fans, is the repertoire. The three are playing their own hits, backing each other on Scaggs’ “Lowdown,” McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” Doobie Brothers favorites such as “Takin’ It to the Streets,” Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years” and Fagen’s own “I.G.Y.” But the trio is even more stoked about tapping into their own influences and roots, and the covers list so far on the tour has included Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” Teddy Pendergrass’ “Love T.K.O.,” the O’Jays’ “Love Train,” the Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda,” three tunes by The Band — “Caledonia Mission,” “Rag Mama Rag,” and “The Shape I’m In” — and a surprising Fagen-sung version of the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.”

“I still love playing the music from the late ’50s through the ’60s, soul music and R&B, and this is really a chance for me to play it,” notes Fagen, who’s been an occasional member of The Band drummer Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band both in Woodstock and on the road. “It’s just so much fun to play that music.”

Fagen adds that he selected “Shakedown Street” because “it isn’t the typical Grateful Dead song. It had a kind of dance beat to it. I think they were kind of cashing in on the disco craze or something like that. But it’s a fantastic song with a beautiful lyric and it gets a great response every time that we do it.”

Scaggs, meanwhile, is happy The Dukes have taken their repertoire far afield this year. “We’re working with material that is challenging,” he explains, “and it’s really fun to perform background vocals or to take a guitar part of it, take a synth part. And I’m talking about the material of the other two guys as well as the cover material we’re going to do. This is fun, challenging and the stuff the music’s all about.”

And for his part, McDonald feels the three stars’ own music shines even brighter, keeping company with the covers.

“We want to put our best foot forward with our own songs because we’re doing so many great old songs that all of a sudden, the bar gets raised,” he says. “You don’t want to get up there and do something too obscure that is a dimmer moment in the evening.”

But one thing the Dukes are not about, they say, is one-upsmanship.

“I think you’re always in competition with yourself,” Fagen says, “but we’re all into playing with other musicians. We like to make each other look good, I think, and so it’s more about collaboration really.  And it’s (a) very, very comfortable thing, really.”

The Dukes did not initially plan to record or film this year’s tour, although Fagen says that could change before the trek winds up Sept. 29 in Los Angeles. After that, the three will go their own ways and back into their own endeavors; Fagen and Scaggs are both making solo albums — the latter a set of Great American Songbook standards — while Steely Dan is touring Australia in November, and McDonald is mulling over a couple of potential album projects.

None of the three will hazard a guess about another Dukes or other kind of collaborative tour — it has, after all, been 18 years since the New York Rock & Soul Revue — but warm memories are already in place from this particular team-up.

“It’s really a great thing,” McDonald notes. “You’ve got a great band up there and all the musicians are pretty world-class players. You get to hear these songs reinvented, so to speak, in live performance by artists who really love and appreciate them. It’s a special circumstance, really — a dream come true.”



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Cincinnati CityBeat Interview

Donald Fagen's Revue Redo

Steely Dan frontman hits the road with pals for the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue

By Steven Rosen / Citybeat
September 3, 2010

 As a student of musical history, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen knows that during the Great Depression musical revues were a popular form of live entertainment.

“There were Earl Carroll’s ‘Vanities’ and the Ziegfeld Follies,” he says. “From the audience point of view, it’s fun because revues are fast-moving, a lot of singers are involved and there’s a variety of music. And people just wanted to have a good time.”

So does that mean the “Dukes of September Rhythm Revue,” coming to PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Sept. 10 and featuring Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, was launched in response to the ongoing Great Recession?

“No, but it occurs to me that sometimes these things happen on an unconscious level,” Fagen says.

There will be at least one difference between those Depression-era shows and the Dukes of September tour.

“They also had a lot of sex,” Fagen explains. “This won’t, but there will be two lovely back-up singers providing visual eye candy.”

In Dukes of September, the three Boomer musicians — who all first had commercial success in the 1970s — will take turns singing favorite oldies as well as dipping into their own back catalogs. They will have a seven-piece supporting band, plus back-up singers Carolyn Escoffery and Catherine Russell. Fagen will play piano and melodica, McDonald keyboards and Scaggs guitar. There is a possibility Fagen’s partner in Steely Dan, Walter Becker, will join up for the West Coast dates.

McDonald actually toured with Steely Dan in the 1970s, when it was still considered a group and not just the duo of Fagen and Becker; he then joined the Doobie Brothers. Fagen, McDonald and Scaggs first worked together on the New York Rock & Soul Revue of the early 1990s and had a great time.

“We’ve always kept in touch and thought maybe we’d do this again,” Fagen says.

The show — with a set list that could change as the tour progresses — will have songs that impacted the stars when they were young and impressionable listeners of early Rock and R&B. Scaggs, for instance, is doing Chuck Berry; the back-up singers will solo on Muddy Waters’ “I Love the Life I Live, I Live the Life I Love.”

But they’re also planning on doing material by their contemporaries or of their generation. Fagen, for instance, is taking on The Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street” while Scaggs is doing the Bobby Womack-penned Teddy Pendergrass hit “Love T.K.O.” And McDonald is planning to tackle the late Buddy Miles’ smoking “Them Changes,” a classic of the late-’60s Psychedelic Soul movement.

They’ll also do a mini-tribute to The Band. That came about because Fagen has been sitting in with Levon Helm’s current band during some of its recent shows in Woodstock, where Helm lives. Helm was the drummer and one of three lead singers for The Band who, after a struggle with throat cancer, has had a remarkable comeback. Two of his recent albums have won Grammys in the Traditional Folk and Americana categories. Helm also at one time had a relationship with Libby Titus, who is now Fagen’s wife. It was Titus who first produced the shows that grew into the New York Rock & Soul Revue.

“I’ve been occasionally sitting in with Levon Helm’s band and mentioned (to Scaggs and McDonald) that I’ve been doing some of those tunes,” Fagen explains. “So, because we’re all fans, we each decided to do a Band song. I’m going to be doing a tune I actually haven’t played with Levon — ‘Caledonia Mission’ from The Band’s first album, Music From Big Pink. Boz is doing ‘Rag Mama Rag’ and Mike does a great version of ‘The Shape I’m In.’ We do them consecutively.”

For all the emphasis on cover tunes, maybe the most interesting song scheduled to be performed during the show is Fagen’s gentle “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World),” from his 1982 solo album The Nightfly. A conceptual piece written from the point of view of a youthful, wide-eyed believer, it lovingly poked fun at the futuristic conceits voiced during 1957-58’s International Geophysical Year, when optimistic Americans believed their science would solve all the world’s problems. It is the rare song that is both ironic and wistful about the past.

“It’s really about people’s delusions of themselves,” Fagen says of the song. “It was written from a kid’s point of view long after I wasn’t a kid anymore. There were a lot of good intentions floating around at the time about how technology can solve the world’s problems, a lot of visions about how America could lead the world to a peaceful future.

“So there is a lot of irony in the lyrics. But there’s also a kind of innocence about that era, and that’s why I think it seems wistful.”



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Detroit News Interview

Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs bring talents to Fox Theatre

By Susan Whitall / Detroit News Music Writer
September 02. 2010 1:00AM

Most musicians were drawn to their trade after first falling in love with the music of others.



When they get to revisit that early love, it's a good reminder for them, and us, of why they got into music in the first place.

 The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue -- Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs -- perform a show Wednesday at the Fox Theatre that's a fun change of pace for both players and fans.

Scaggs says they know many fans don't have "extra coin" to spend on shows right now. "The reality is hitting those big-ticket artists who are doing the huge, mega-venues," Scaggs said. "But we're doing OK. We're not performing in super-big places, and we're doing it for the love of doing it."

The tour, which started last month in Connecticut, was conceived by Fagen, McDonald and Scaggs as a tribute to the music that first inspired them -- much of which is vintage R&B.

Fagen had some time this summer while on break from Steely Dan, the jazz-pop group he and Walter Becker have fronted since the '70s. His friendship with singer McDonald goes back to when the latter sang backup and played keyboards for the group. McDonald went on to join the Doobie Brothers, then went solo. Scaggs hit in the '70s as well, with a sly, sophisticated jazzy-pop sound on his album "Silk Degrees" and hits like "Lowdown."

With a late summer window of time open, the three decided to take the leap.

It's a concept Fagen first visited back in the '90s when he launched the New York Rock and Soul Revue with a variety of acts, including Phoebe Snow, Eddie Brigati of the Rascals, McDonald and Scaggs.

This time, they dumped the "New York Rock and Soul" name -- after all, only Fagen is from the greater New York area (McDonald grew up in St. Louis and Scaggs in Oklahoma and Texas).

Breaking from the "revue" format, the three singer/musicians will stay on stage together for the entire show.

"We're playing each other's songs and singing vocals for the other ones," Scaggs says, "so it's more like a band that three guys are fronting. We are taking the idea of the Rock and Soul Revue in terms of the breadth and scope of the music we're doing. But it's an update."

The three have tried to keep their set list a surprise.

"We started out with an impossibly large list, and are down to an impossibly small list," Scaggs says. Among the soul and R&B classics they've rehearsed: The O'Jays' "Love Train," Little Anthony & The Imperials' "Hurts So Bad" and McDonald's "What a Fool Believes." At least one song by their great idol Ray Charles is probable. Other songs rehearsed: Steely Dan's "I.G.Y.," a funky Grateful Dead song called "Shakedown Street," and a selection of songs by The Band.

"Among musicians, The Band have a special status," Scaggs says.

In fact, while classic R&B remains one of their favorite genres, all three men have been making forays into bluegrass and country lately: Fagen has been jamming with The Band's Levon Helm up in Woodstock, N.Y.; McDonald has been playing the banjo a lot; and Scaggs has become involved with a San Francisco roots music festival called the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

"It's given me a chance to hook up with them and explore American roots music that I haven't done before," he says. "And The Band sort of comes out of that vein, an Appalachia meets Acadia meets New Orleans kind of thing."

OK, but what about that Grateful Dead song?

"The Grateful Dead surprised me," Scaggs says, laughing. "But Donald's found a song of theirs from the disco era with a kind of progressive rhythm and really interesting lyrics, and he wants to give that a try. If you had played it to me blindfolded, I wouldn't have guessed it in a million years."

Some Detroit-related possibilities include Stevie Wonder's "Til You Come Back to Me," David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)" and Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad," although Scaggs at first wanted to do that singer's "Leave My Kitten Alone." Fagen was pushing for "Need Your Love."

"And Marvin Gaye has come up, he's kind of a mainstay for the three of us," Scaggs says. "You can't keep Detroit out of the mix when you're talking R&B classics."



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Minneapolis Star Tribune

Duking it out with three classic rockers

Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs talk about their collaboration coming to the State Fair on Labor Day.

By JON BREAM / Star Tribune
September 3, 2010

The moniker was the hardest part.

For Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, coming up with a name for their one-shot tour together was more challenging than figuring out which songs to perform.

"We went through a few names," said Fagen, best known as the voice of Steely Dan. "I think we started out with 'The Theme From "Sea Hunt" Rhythm Revue,' but that didn't get universal acclaim. I think the 'Dukes' is a sort of name that a lot of '50s doo-wop bands would use. And then 'September,' aside from the fact that we'll be touring in September, I think this kind of allusion to our collective ages in the sense that, say the Kurt Weill song, 'September Song,' would also use September as a metaphor in that sense. That's basically the way it worked out."

For the repertoire, each singer submitted a list. Then they started discussing. What they ended up with is a dynamic mixture.

"It's ranging from R&B from the late '50s through folk material, Motown material, and we may be doing some material by the Band that's come up, and also going right into things like the Beach Boys," Fagen explained in a joint conversation with the other singers. "And we have to be careful that we don't get too obscure. We want to pick the songs that not only we enjoy, but that the audience will enjoy. Doing the old stuff is really the more self-indulgent part for us, because we probably enjoy that even more than playing our own stuff."

Granted, this teleconference took place before tour rehearsals began. So things could change.

The concept of the tour is an extension of what Fagen did in the early 1990s with the New York Rock and Soul Revue, which featured a revolving cast including Scaggs, McDonald, Phoebe Snow, Fagen's bandmate Walter Becker and bluesman Charles Brown.

"It's, in a way, the most fun kind of show to do, because it gives the audience a lot of variety, so it never gets boring," Fagen said. "It's fun for the other musicians to do something they don't usually do. And I think there's a great tradition in it. Like in New York here, everyone always talks about these great shows they used to go to like the Motown Revue and the soul revue where you'd get to see Otis Redding and Sam Cooke and all these great acts, all on one stage with one band."

Being sideman vs. frontman

Even though each of the Dukes will do some of his own hits, they view this project as a collaboration, not a competition.

"We like to make each other look good," Fagen said. "So it's more about collaboration really."

"Yes, I think Donald is right," chimed in McDonald, "in the sense that music, by nature, is so uncompetitive really. And for us, the reason for getting together on stage is just that."

"I have a feeling, correct me if I'm wrong," Fagen continued, "but each of us probably enjoys being a sideman as much as being a frontman."

The other Dukes agreed.

Many of the players in this new revue, including guitarist Jon Herington and bassist Freddie Washington, have come from Steely Dan's touring band. But keyboardist McDonald and guitarist Scaggs recently toured together as well, so they are quite familiar with each other. And keyboardist Fagen and McDonald go back to the latter's stint with Steely Dan in the 1970s while he also was in the Doobie Brothers.

Each singer has a recording project in the works. McDonald is making a duo disc with guitarist Robben Ford. Fagen has started on a solo album, and Scaggs is compiling material for another collection of standards.

State Fair on Labor Day

But the Dukes of September have undertaken a six-week, late-summer tour that brings them to the State Fair grandstand on Labor Day.

How do they feel about playing Labor Day?

"That's great for me, because I tend to get depressed on holidays," Fagen explained. "So if I have a gig on a holiday, it saves me from having to live through it. Do they have any good rides at the fair? Like a Whip or something like that?"

How 'bout the bungee jump?

"There you go," Fagen said.

"I always like playing outdoors," McDonald said.

"Are there animal exhibits near the stage?" Scaggs asked.

Not near the grandstand, the interviewer said, but there's a birthing center and various animal barns at the fairgrounds.

"I love that stuff, like breeding," Fagen said.

"I'm there," Scaggs confirmed.

"I love playing fairs," Fagen said.

"Serenade the two-headed cow, yes!" McDonald promised.

©2010 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.



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St. Paul Pioneer Press Interview

Here come the Dukes of September, three of the best rock 'n' soul vets in the business

By Ross Raihala
September 02, 2010

About a decade after Steely Dan disbanded the first time, Donald Fagen founded the New York Rock and Soul Revue, a group tour featuring Fagen and friends playing party tunes, from old R&B hits to familiar Steely Dan tracks.

Now, Fagen has reteamed with two Rock and Soul vets, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, to mount a similar road show to celebrate what Fagen calls "tunes that were popular when we were growing up, when we decided to become musicians."

The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue pulls into the Twin Cities on Monday to play the final night of the Minnesota State Fair. During a recent conference call with reporters, the trio described what fans can expect at the show.

ON REVIVING THE REVUE CONCEPT

Fagen: "In a way, it's the most fun kind of show to do because it gives the audience a lot of variety, so it never gets boring. And I think there's a great tradition in it. Like, in New York, everyone always talks about these great shows at the Paramount where they used to see the Motown and soul revues. You'd get to see Otis Redding and Sam Cooke and all these great acts, all on one stage with one band."

McDonald: "Boz and I had been touring, and to find out Donald was even interested in doing this was just something that was exciting, and it was a no-brainer for Boz and I to do. From our standpoint, it's a musical event, and it's something that we know would be fun for us ... and if it's fun for us, we can make it fun for the audience pretty easily."

ON CHOOSING THE DUKES OF SEPTEMBER NAME

Fagen: "We had a little trouble finding a name. We went through a few. I think we started out with the Sea Hunt Rhythm Revue, but that didn't get universal acclaim. So, the Dukes of September. Aside from the fact that we'll be touring in September, I think it's kind of an allusion to our collective ages. The Kurt Weill song, 'September Song,' also uses September as a metaphor in that sense."

ON WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE SET LIST

Fagen: "R&B from the late '50s through folk material, Motown material, going right into things like the Beach Boys. I think it's just based on musical quality. I think it gives us a break from our usual material that we do every summer, and that gives it the kind of spontaneity that should make it a lot of fun."

Scaggs: "Each of us submitted lists of (songs) that we thought might apply to this band. It's really fun to see the list come in from each of the partners. We've kicked around some various formats and various types of songs, and the list has grown from a rather long one to a shorter one."

McDonald: "It's almost self-indulgent for us (because) we probably enjoy (the old songs) even more than playing our own stuff. We have to be careful that we don't get too obscure. We want to pick the songs that not only we enjoy, but that the audience will enjoy. It's kind of like sex. You have to be careful you're not the only one enjoying it, you know?"

ON WHAT THEY'LL PLAY FROM THEIR OWN REPERTOIRES

McDonald: "It's kind of a tricky thing. You want to do something that they don't always hear, but you feel a little sheepish if you don't do 'What a Fool Believes.' You're afraid people might feel like they got shortchanged or something if you don't do some of the big hits."

Fagen: "It's always nice to send people home hearing some stuff that they're used to hearing you play. It's kind of a tradeoff. You want to play some material they're not used to hearing, and there's obviously some part of the audience that's going to feel cheated if somehow they don't hear something that they've come to hear."

ON THE TRIO'S BACKING BAND

Fagen: "Well, there's a little cross talk with the Steely Dan band. We've got Freddie Washington playing. He has been playing with Steely Dan for a few years. On drums, we have a guy named Michael White who I've played with in the studio before. We've got a great horn section: Jay Collins, Walt Weiskopf and Michael Leonhart on trumpet. Catherine Russell and (Carolyn Leonhart) as backup

Boz Scaggs vocalists, who are both great jazz singers in their own right. Jim Beard is going to be playing the organ. Boz Scaggs will play the electric guitar, and Jon Herington will also be playing the electric guitar and things like that. There were a couple of musicians who were busy, but basically, all of these guys were first picks."

ON THE FRIENDSHIP AMONG THE THREE

Fagen: "We just get along real well. I think I've known Mike since, golly, '73 or '74, and Boz since '93. Basically, we see things, musically, the same way."

McDonald: "Donald and I — and Boz for that matter — we all came up during the '70s and the record business in L.A. The thought that we're all still kind of working together and taking the stage together after all these years is in itself a lot of fun."

ON WHAT FILLS THE IPODS OF THE DUKES OF SEPTEMBER

McDonald: "Lately, I've been listening to some older female artists. One song I've been caught on recently, and I just did a little recording of it for fun on ukulele and piano, was Ketty Lester's song called 'Love Letters.' It's a record that Lincoln Majorca played that kind of famous piano part on. It's just a great, great all-time record. You can hear it 100 times."

Scaggs: "I'm listening to Ry Cooder. There's an album called 'I, Flathead' that I've been listening to."

Fagen: "For this project, I've been listening to a lot of R&B and soul, just to look for material. But generally speaking, I listen to a lot of jazz from the '50s and '60s and actually going back to the '20s. That was sort of my first love growing up, and I still love listening to Miles Davis and Charles Mingus, (John) Coltrane, that kind of thing."

What: The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue with Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Minnesota State Fair Grandstand, 1265 N. Snelling Ave., Falcon Heights
Tickets: $45




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Boston Herald Interview

Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald band together as Dukes of September

By Jed Gottlieb  / August 31, 2010 / Boston Herald

Hey baby, mix us a couple of Harvey Wallbangers, turn the lights low and put “Silk Degrees” on the hi-fi. On second though, make that “Aja.” No, no, wait, drop the needle on “Minute By Minute.”

Does this ever happen to you? Can’t decide whether to listen to Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan or Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers? This conundrum confounds one in three yacht rock fans. Now there’s a simple cure: listen to all of them at once.

Tuesday night, the Dukes of September Rhythm Revue - a teaming of Scaggs, McDonald and Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen - bring their rock and soul show to the Citi Wang Theatre. Ahead of the ’70s summit, Fagen phoned from his home in New York to talk about Grateful Dead nuggets and the lame idea of keyboard duels.

Herald: You’ve popped up at a few of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble jam sessions in upstate New York. Did the loose nature of those jams get the ball rolling to do this footloose tour?

Fagen: This tour is really a continuation of the New York Rock and Soul Revue the three of us were part of in the ’90s. But, yeah, Levon’s rambles are in the air. We’ve all even picked out a Band tune to do. People like revues in an economy like this. There was a big reason the Ziegfeld Follies were so popular back during the Depression.

Are you and the other guys big fans of (Helm’s former group) The Band?

I think most musicians our age are huge Band fans. A lot of younger people don’t understand that when “Music From Big Pink” came out nothing like that had ever existed. In a way it was soul music for white people. These guys, most of them from the wilderness of Canada and Levon from the wilderness of Arkansas, had a really soulful delivery. And, inspired by Bob Dylan, wrote some amazing material. It was a real watershed moment for music. Hey, I remember Eric Clapton wanted to be in the band. That’s how cool they were.

An unexpected tune you are doing in this revue is the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.” It’s always had a Steely Dan vibe to me. Do you see that?

Yeah, the song is kind of an anomaly in the Dead’s repertoire. Maybe that’s what I like about it. It has a few peculiar chords in it and an interesting structure. And just fantastic lyrics by Robert Hunter, great lyrics about a dead industrial town, and yet, when you poke under the surface, you see there’s still life under neither there. That’s a just a great idea.

If you’re skipping a lot of your hits, what will fill out the Dukes of September set?

A lot of old r&b that we loved as kids. There’s some Ray Charles in there. Ray was some of the first black music we all heard because it crossed over to mainstream radio. It was something you could listen to because your parents liked Ray Charles. He’s the best singer in the world and to hear Mike, who took a lot of his sound from Ray, sing him is just great.

If you’re sharing the stage the entire show and Mike and you are playing keyboards will we get any cool keyboard battles?

Boz is playing guitar and so is (Steely Dan guitarist) Jon Herington so you might get some guitar battles. Keyboard battles are not that exciting. Like, you know, battle of the snails or something boring like that.

The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue Tuesday at the Citi Arts Wang Theatre. Tickets: $45 - $125



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Concert Live-Wire Interview

Soulful rockers Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs reconnect via the "Dukes of September Rhythm Revue"

By Andy Argyrakis / Concert Live Wire
August 30, 2010

Long before Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs were famous, they were listening to the lauded likes of Motown soul and golden oldies. Though all of their work has interjected those influences to a certain extent, Fagen's time in Steely Dan, McDonald's backing of that same band followed by time in the Doobie Brothers and Scaggs' solo career have also embraced jazz, pop and good old fashioned rock n' roll. On the aptly titled "Dukes of September Rhythm Revue" tour, the esteemed trio (who could easily be individual headliners any given night) will split the set between personal hits and choice covers from all of the above genres, as hinted during a recent teleconference conversation.

Can you talk a little about what you'll be playing?

Donald Fagen: Well, this is similar to a show we did back in the '90s, it was called "The New York Rock & Soul Revue." We toured together one summer. And basically, it's an opportunity for us to do some of the material from our own personal repertoires. And also do some cover material, just basically tunes that each of us chooses among tunes that were popular when we were growing up, when we decided to become musicians. And ranging from R&B from the late '50s through folk material, Motown material, and we may be doing some material by the band that's come up. And also going right into things like the Beach Boys...things like that. I think it's just based on musical quality. Basically we all sort of keep things the same way I think, as far as that goes. But I think it gives us a break from our usual material that we do every summer. And that gives it the kind of spontaneity that should make it a lot of fun.

You've made this very clear to fans that this isn't [a regular solo tour], but when you're looking at your solo material, does that make you feel obligated to perform some of the bigger hits or does it give you more of an impetus to pull out some rarities of your own?

Donald Fagen: Well, I know for myself, that I think it's an opportunity for me. Instead of playing a lot of Steely Dan material, as far as personal repertoire goes, I think that it gives me a chance to do some of the stuff from my own solo albums. So I wouldn't be surprised if I stick with some of the stuff I have in my list like "IGY" and things like that.

Michael McDonald: I think it'll be a combination of things that people certainly would want to hear, and might feel like we've passed by something that they might want to hear. So it's kind of a tricky thing, you want to do something that they don't always hear, like maybe in my case "Yamo" or something. But you feel a little sheepish if you don't do "What a Fool Believes," because first of all, this band would play it well and play it great. But also you're afraid people might feel like they got shortchanged or something if you don't do some of the big hits.

What would you consider the plusses and minuses of performing live as opposed to in the studio?

Boz Scaggs: Well, one is performing and one is sort of more exploratory. Speaking for myself, the studio is just for me a chance to try things out and explore things with a certain lineup of players and just work out some ideas. Whereas performance is something that you can then refine, it's all there, the picture's already painted. Then you go out and explore various ways of performing. And that's just a different kind of release. I remember when I was recording more frequently and touring more frequently, when I was on the road I was sort of at a point to be eager to get back to the studio, and the same with when I was in the studio, I wanted to go out and play. So they're really just two different elements to me.

Donald Fagen: Yes, I agree. There's always that point if you've been on the road for a few months, the thing you somehow want to do the most is sort of gather your thoughts and get some sleep for a month. You want to see where you are, and then start developing ideas that you've been having. And then the other thing, if you're a couple months into making a record, it's like I'm tired of this nail biting routine, and trying to figure out this puzzle of how to make a record, and I'd rather just be out on stage. It's really like two pulls of the same thing, but it's very different, very different.

Michael McDonald: Yes, I would agree with that. I think sometimes for me, I feel like it's easier to be on the road. I enjoy singing live more than I do in the studio for one thing. In the studio, I always feel like I have to kind of get a run up to it when I'm singing...

Do you guys think that your original material has seen a resurgence in the past five years, especially with Mike's music?

Michael McDonald: I don't really know, to be honest with you. I've had some pretty good fortune in the last couple years. One of the things that I've had the most fun doing, and it had turned out to have been kind of resurgence as an artist for me, was the Motown records, which I have to give all credit to those songs. And the fact that it was so much fun to do, it was hardly like work. I think going back and doing a solo record of original material for me would be, in some degrees, like going back to work. But I'm almost amazed I think, and the other guys would probably agree with me, that after all these years, I don't know that any of us really expected to be still out touring in these venues and playing for audiences like this. And it's something we're all pretty grateful for the opportunity to do.

You folks seem to have quite a bit of camaraderie with one another and always have. But at any point did you ever feel a spirit of competition, even if it was just in fun or in the spirit of healthy competition?

Donald Fagen: Not really. You're always competing with yourself as far as performance goes. But I don't know, I guess having come of age in the '60s, maybe it's something about our generation but I don't know, I'm speaking for myself, I'm certainly not into competition as far as music goes. It's like all about collaboration and listening to the other guy and trying to make the other guy look good, and trying to read the other guy's mind when you're on stage. Anyway that's the fun of it, is locking in with the other players you know.

Michael McDonald: Yes, I think Donald is right, in the sense that I think music by nature is so uncompetitive really. And for us, the reason for getting together on stage is just that. And it's really all about, you kind of pride yourself on being one of the guys who can listen and be a part of it, not whether it's always going to be better than any one person up there.

Donald Fagen: I have a feeling, correct me if I'm wrong, but each of us probably enjoys being a sideman as much as being a front man.

Boz Scaggs: Yes, we're working with material that is challenging, and it's going to be really fun to perform background vocals or to take a guitar part of it, take a synth part. And I'm talking about the material of the other two guys as well as the cover material we're going to do. This is fun, challenging, and the stuff the music's all about.

The "Dukes of September Rhythm Revue" visits the Chicago Theatre on Saturday, September 11.



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New Jersey Star-Ledger Interview

Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs: introducing the Dukes of September

July 20, 2010
Jay Lustig / The Star-Ledger
 
Donald Fagen is joining Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs in the pop-soul supergroup, the Dukes of September.
 
The possibilities are endless.

The Dukes of September — a new pop-soul supergroup featuring Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs — will sing covers as well as their own songs on their upcoming “Rhythm Revue” tour, which starts Aug. 19 and comes to Atlantic City on Aug. 20 and Holmdel on Sept. 2. In a phone interview with a group of reporters last week, the three said they are considering songs recorded by everyone from the Beach Boys to David Ruffin, of Temptations fame.

“I’ve been doing revue-type things on and off since the early ’90s and it’s, in a way, the most fun kind of show to do, because it gives the audience a lot of variety, so it never gets boring,” said Fagen, who is best known as the voice of Steely Dan.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the interview came when Fagen said he may perform the Grateful Dead’s 1978 hit “Shakedown Street.” In the ’70s after all, the polished, subtly humorous Steely Dan and the scruffy, hard-jamming Grateful Dead were about as different as two bands could be.

As it turns out, Fagen has been singing “Shakedown Street” lately, when sitting in with Levon Helm’s band.

“It wasn’t the typical Grateful Dead song because it had kind of a dance beat to it,” said Fagen, 62. “I think they were kind of cashing in on the disco craze or something like that, but it’s a fantastic song with a beautiful lyric and it gets a great response every time that we do it, and so I think I’m going to try to put that in the show.”

McDonald, 58, who contributed backing vocals to some of Steely Dan’s classic ’70s albums but became a star in his own right as a member of the Doobie Brothers, mentioned Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got News for You” as a possibility for the tour.

“That’s a song that I always loved playing, back even when I was a kid,” he said. “It’s one of those mainstays that I’m kind of thrilled to get a chance to sing again.”

Scaggs, 66, said the three are considering picking one song apiece from the repertoire of Helm’s pioneering roots-rock group, the Band. “Each of us has listened and dug them a lot over the years, and I know Donald’s been working with Levon, and it’s just sort of in the air,” Scaggs said. “So that’s a particularly exciting little bit of real estate that we’re looking at for the show.”

This isn’t the first time that these three men, blessed with three of the most distinctive voices of their generation, have done this sort of thing. In the early ’90s they, and others, teamed up for a series of shows Fagen organized, called the New York Rhythm and Soul Revue.

“This is kind of a continuation of that tradition,” said McDonald, who described the opportunity as “a dream come true.”

“It’s almost self-indulgent for us,” he said. “And doing the old (covers) is really the more self-indulgent part for us, because we probably enjoy that even more than playing our own stuff.”
They will play with the same house band — made up, mostly, of Steely Dan alumni — and will back each other: Fagen and McDonald on keyboards, Scaggs on guitar.

“Each of us probably enjoys being a sideman as much as being a frontman,” said Fagen.
They could have resurrected the New York Rhythm and Soul Revue name for this tour, but instead went with the Dukes of September. “Dukes” is evocative of classic doo-wop groups like the Earls and the Mello-Kings, and “September” alludes to both the time of the year that the group will be on the road, and the members’ ages (think of standards such as “September Song” and “The September of My Years”).

“We had a little trouble finding a name, actually,” said Fagen. “We went through a few names. I think we started out with the Theme from ‘Sea Hunt’ Rhythm Revue, but that didn’t get universal acclaim.”

©2010 NJ.com. All rights reserved.



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SoundSpike Interview

Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs team up for summer tour

By Jon Zahlaway / SoundSpike Associate Editor
June 16, 2010

Singer/songwriters Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs will team with Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen for a triple-bill tour that kicks off later this summer.

Dubbed "The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue," the outing is set to launch Aug. 19 in Danbury, CT, and is so far slated to touch down in more than 20 cities from coast to coast before the Oct. 2 finale in Las Vegas. Details are shown at right.
Concertgoers can expect the trio to "delve deep into their individual classic catalogs of music, along with selected hits and tributes to their influences," according to a press release.

"Back in the early '90s, my wife [Libby Titus] was producing little shows in Manhattan restaurants featuring mostly friends -- musicians, comedians and so on," Fagen said in a prepared statement while explaining the genesis for the tour. "This grew into 'The New York Rock & Soul Revue,' which toured nationally for two years and produced an album, 'Live at the Beacon Theater.'

"The 1993 show featured, among others, Mike McDonald, Boz Scaggs and myself. The shows were such a blast that we decided to tour together again this year as the mighty 'Dukes of September.'"

"This time around, we're going a little farther afield with our trio," Scaggs added, "but the setlist in progress reflects the basic approach, which is: out of the hundreds of songs we've picked out of the hat, what are the gems and how can we fit it all into a two hour show?

"How about Mike McDonald singing 'Hurt So Bad' by Little Anthony or doing Ray's 'Tell the Truth' or Donald Fagen doing David Ruffin's 'My Whole World Ended'? And I might get to do Mink DeVille's 'Cadillac Walk' or some Curtis Mayfield. What I know for sure is that I'll have the best seat in the house."

"The music of Donald Fagen [with fellow Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker] and Boz Scaggs figures heavily in memories of my early years in California," McDonald said. "Having the privilege to take the stage with them, two of my all time favorite artists, is one thing; but because they're guys that I've shared such an ongoing history with, this makes it all the more special for me. I only hope it's nearly as much fun for the audience."

Tickets will begin hitting the box office this Friday (6/18), according to a press release.



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Billboard Interview

Fagen, McDonald, Scaggs Join Forces For Rhythm Revue Tour

By Gary Graff, Detroit / June 14, 2010

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Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen will join forces as the Dukes of September this summer when they hit the road for the 15-date (and growing) Rhythm Revue tour, starting Aug 19 in Danbury, Conn.

The jaunt is an outgrowth of all three men's involved in the New York Rock and Soul Revue, which was produced by Fagen's wife, Libby Titus, and went on the road in 1992 and, as a by-product, led Fagen and Walter Becker to reactivate Steely Dan. Fagen tells Billboard.com "we decided it needed a new name" in this incarnation, though the musical premise will remain the same, mixing their own material with favorite R&B and blues songs.

"I still love playing the music from the late 50s through the 60s, soul music and R&B, and this is really a chance for me to play it" notes Fagen, who's been an occasional member of Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble Band  both in Woodstock and on the road. "It's just so much fun to play that music. And for me it's a total no-stress thing because the focus isn't so much on me. I just get to play without it being so much of a job in a certain way. It's a lot of fun."


McDonald adds that "for us it's like a great escape. It's kind of a luxurious opportunity to do what we would have the most fun doing. We all have fun going out as Steely Dan or Boz or Michael McDonald...but it largely consists of our own records being reproduced live. This is more fun for us, in a way, and hopefully not too self-indulgent. I think the audience enjoys it, too."

The newly christened Dukes plan to get together for rehearsals later this month in New York, with a band that includes several members from Steely Dan's regular touring troupe. Repertoire discussions are already under way, and the trio is planning a medley of songs from The Band while Fagen is planning a rendition of the Grateful Dead's "Shakedown Street" as well as material from his three solo albums. "There'll be some blues, some Stax-type material," Fagen says. "Boz has got a Chuck Berry thing he wants to do, too." McDonald, meanwhile, expects to play some Motown songs -- though not necessarily ones from his pair of "Motown" releases -- as well as "some Ray Charles things."

"We always wind up doing a Beach Boys thing here and there; that's another favorite of all of ours," adds McDonald, a former adjunct Steely Dan member who also plans to perform Doobie Brothers hits such as "What a Fool Believes" and "Takin' It To the Streets" as well as his own "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)." "We want to put our best foot forward with our own songs because we're doing so many great old songs that all of a sudden the bar gets raised. You don't want to get up there and do something too obscure that is a dimmer moment in the evening."

Scaggs, meanwhile, predicts that the show will go "a little farther afield" than the Rock and Soul Revue, mentioning songs such as Little Anthony & the Imperial's "Hurt So Bad," David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended" and Mink deVille's "Cadillac Walk." "Out of hundreds of songs we've picked out of a hat," he says, "what are the gems and how can we fit it all into a two hour show?...What I know for sure is that I'll have the best seat in the house."

Steely Dan is currently off duty until a November tour of Australia, but Becker was a late addition to the 1992 Rock and Soul Revue tour. Would he do it again for the Rhythm Revue? "He hasn't mentioned it yet," says Fagen, who's currently working on his next solo album. "I think he wanted to take the summer off. I know he's working on some material of his own, but you never know with him. You can't pin him down."



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