Steve Khan, Patchwork Review
by Nolan DeBuke
There is a saying among players “a musicians’ musician.” In essence, this is the player most respected by his or her peers. One such player comes to mind immediately guitarist Steve Khan. His breadth of command on his instrument is no less than a marvel to behold.
Khan has a long history in the Latin Jazz idiom. His latest recording, Patchwork, subtitled in Spanish “Medio Mezclado,” represents the fourth in a series that expands the role of guitar in Latin music, particularly Latin jazz. Khan is joined by Rob Mounsey (keys, orchestrations); Rubén Rodríguez (baby bass, electric bass), Bobby Allende (conga), Marc Quiñones (timbal, bongo, percussion), and Dennis Chambers (drums). Including special guests: Randy Brecker (flügelhorn), Bob Mintzer (tenor Sax), and Tatiana Parra (vocals) and composer and keyboard artist Jorge Estrada makes an appearance on his tune “Huracán Clare” a befitting tribute to Clare Fischer.
“Epistrophy (Epistrofia)” starts the musical adventure with Khan generating an arrangement of the Thelonious Monk tune with a delightful six-four Latin feel. Allende, Quiñones, and Chambers create a dancing tapestry of Latin rhythms as the drum set and percussion work together to form the groove. Khan’s guitar tone is warm, acoustic and his notes ring clear. Mounsey’s keyboard accents in the melody provide support and fullness. Khan’s guitar solo is centered around using the melody as a central theme. His quick lines are fluid, and each note rings clear. His chordal playing is astonishing in its fluidity. Khan is the real deal.
Joe Henderson’s beautiful composition, “A Shade of Jade,” features renowned trumpeter Randy Brecker’s guest appearance. Khan’s and Brecker’s tone blend to create a beautiful sound for the melody. The percussion and drums deliver and Latin energy that is so danceable that one will have to cut a rug during this track. Brecker’s flugelhorn is mellow, but vibrant with vibrancy. Khan’s solo hooks-up with the rhythm section as he effortlessly builds his ideas. The band changes from son montuno to caballo for Khan’s solo. The rhythmic creativity and diversity like this change give “A Shade of Jade,” and all the other beautiful tunes, a muscular effect, and profound musicality.
In all, they perform Steve’s arrangements of compositions by Thelonious Monk, “Epistrophy”; Ornette Coleman, “C. & D.” and “T. & T.”; Joe Henderson, “A Shade of Jade”; Bobby Hutcherson, “Bouquet”; and Keith Jarrett’s “The Journey Home.” As always, the recording features a gorgeous ballad: “Too Late Now” written by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane. This time, there is a “BONUS TRACK” for downloads only, a spectacular interpretation of Eden Ahbez’ “Nature Boy” which features the beautiful voice of Tatiana Parra.
Overall, Patchwork is a masterful effort that proves Khan is a force to be reckoned with, a must-have for any collection.