Half Notes: Steve Khan – Parting Shot (2011)

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photo: stevekhan.com

My first encounter with the musicianship of fusion guitarist Steve Khan came from Billy Joel’s 1978 album 52nd Street. I still remember a studio picture of Khan in the vinyl record’s sleeve, big black hair, mustache, guitar and all. These days, Khan doesn’t have the big black hair anymore, but he still sports a ‘stache and is still usually seen clutching a guitar. And he’s made plenty of records of his own. Parting Shot, out on April 26, is another instrumental fusion record from him, but one with a distinctively Latin twist. For this outing, Khan brings back Dennis Chambers and Anthony Jackson from his old 80s/90s Eyewitness band, along with former Weather Report percussionist Manolo Badrena. Rounded out by Marc Quiñones and Bobby Allende with additional percussion, this is like a power-fusion trio plus a power-percussion trio.

But don’t expect non-stop fretful flights of fancy from Khan, who is content to assume more of a lead comping role using a rich tone than an out-and-out lead solo role for most of the time. Some of that is borne out of the setup; aside from some occasional background keyboards from Rob Mounsey, Khan is the only one playing chordal instrument. He seems content to ride the groove and let his stellar rhythm section set the pace, and the percussion is world class. Interestingly, two Ornette Coleman tunes (“Chronology” and “Blues Connotation) and a Thelonious Monk song (“Bye-Ya”) were chosen for Afro-Cuban treatments, and they’re completely transformed in the process. The guitar player weaves some gorgeous notes on “When She’s Not There” and tosses in some appealing licks in a couple of other spots, but the main attraction of Parting Shot comes from the uniquely angular harmonization of songs that draws from both the contemporary jazz and Latin worlds, and rendered expertly by some of the best session players around.

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Half Notes is a quick-take music feature on Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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