The 1970's saw quite a few pop musicians deciding to move beyond what they saw as the confines of the three minute hit song. Some went the route of progressive rock self indulgence featuring long drawn out electronic keyboard extravagances of excess. Others started to perform longer and longer guitar solo's which meandered on into nothingness until they lost their point. But a very few looked at what the jazz fusion groups were doing and saw something there to emulate.
Under the influence of Miles Davis, groups like Weather Report and individuals like Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea were stretching jazz into a meeting with funk and rhythm and blues. At the same time a limited number of bands were utilizing jazz influences in their pop music. Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Lighthouse were using horn sections and other unconventional rock instruments to help create a sound that was different, but they were still working within the pop/rock format.
The honour of being the first pop band to produce a rock/jazz fusion album was Steely Dan with their recording of the record Aja. As part of their Classic Albums Series Eagle Vision, a division of Eagle Rock Entertainment, has produced a DVD documentary on the recording of the album. They've gathered together Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the two front men of Steely Dan, and a group of the session musicians who played on the album to help recreate its production.
Prior to Aja's release in 1977 Steely Dan had already had five albums in the top forty in the U.S. But Aja became the band's biggest seller reaching number 3 and number 5 in the U. K. Although the recording was listed as being by Steely Dan, at the time the band only consisted of Fagen and Becker, the remainder of the musicians used on the album were all session men.