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In the Artist's Own Words

Steve Khan: Reflections on the Making of "Borrowed Time"

By Published: June 6, 2007
"Mr. and Mrs. People (Ornette Coleman) (7:44)

Through his LPs, I thought that I was familiar with most of Ornette Coleman's recorded work but, as we have discovered in the CD age, fans have reaped the benefits of the extra disc space by being given "alternate takes, and "previously unreleased material. "Mr. and Mrs. People is just such a tune, and only appears, as far as I know, on the box set, Beauty is a Rare Thing (Atlantic, 1992). The tune was recorded on July 19th, 1960, and at the same time as his classic composition, "Blues Connotation. "Mr. and Mrs. People is such a great melody that I can't understand how it wasn't "good enough to have been included. But, these are often decisions which are made by the record company, and not necessarily by the artist. Who can say why this happened?

As usual, I spent a great deal of time familiarizing myself with the piece, and as I grew closer to it, I started to find ways to "make it my own. So, along with the chemistry that John, Jack, Manolo and I have developed in interpreting Ornette's music in this setting, I felt ready to present it to them, and just play it. There was only one rehearsal for this particular recording session, and because of scheduling conflicts, John Patitucci couldn't even be there. Though he had been sent an envelope of all the music, and a CD-R, which included Ornette's original recording, we never all played it together until the run-throughs prior to the take. So, as a group, we sacrifice the familiarity, and have to rely on the spontaneity. The results? Well, they are what they are! class="f-right s-img">

"Face Value (Steve Khan) (10:09)

Believe it or not, this piece was originally composed for what would have been my third CD with the Caribbean Jazz Project in 2002. But, after series of anticipated, but no less awful disagreements with Dave Samuels, I quit the group. And so, this tune had been lying around since then. Because of the importance of the keyboard part, I just didn't see how I could ever really record it for a CD under my own name. But, as the new recording project was taking shape, I began to see that this might be the best opportunity I might ever have to record it.

When my old "boss Randy Brecker and I reconnected during 2006, I sent him the demo for this tune, and he really seemed to like it. But, he stated that he didn't have a record deal, and that he had no idea as to if or when he might have the opportunity to record again. So, Randy was in my mind, and very much so, when I was trying to envision just how I would want to record this tune. In light of all that has transpired in the past couple of years, it was very special to have Randy there. And this tune was actually recorded on Randy's birthday.....which we celebrated in the studio with a cake.

I haven't used my ESP Strat as a melodic voice in years. Actually, not since Public Access (GRP, 1989) in 1988. But in truth, this style of playing that instrument, and using the tremolo arm, really goes back to the Eyewitness (Antilles, 1981) recording, and the tune "Dr. Slump. Here, the combination of the Latin "bolero and "cha-cha-cha rhythms provide the perfect backdrop for this kind of expressive playing. As Marc Quiñones and Bobby Allende humorously pointed out, the groove becomes a "bolero-cha. Rubén Rodriguez and his Baby Bass anchor the track with just the right character.

The [B] section, from both the harmonic and linear perspective, is another affectionate tribute to the harmonies of Clare Fischer. Though there is nothing so unique about the chord progressions employed, the voicing style is really easily identifiable as being connected to Clare. Where my struggles with composing are concerned, I think that this is one of the best sections that I've ever written. I think that this is because the melody could exist, on its own, apart from the harmony beneath it. Each voicing is played to perfection by the great Rob Mounsey. Once again he demonstrates his own sense of romance with beautiful harmony, and glorious keyboard sounds.

As I was preparing for the recording, I had initially thought that I would play my nylon-string acoustic on this one, but, as the session approached, I changed my mind, and decided that my Martin MC-28 steel string acoustic would be the right instrument. I like the steel-string, in the middle of this kind of lush context, because it has a certain "twang and funkiness to it that provide a perfect contrast. It was Randy Brecker's choice to use his flügelhorn on this track, and he sounds so very wonderful during the entire performance. class="f-right s-img">

"El Faquir (Steve Khan) (13:37)

Throughout the process of my education, I have always thought of the meaning for a "fakir as: a person who was capable of magical feats, sometimes a healer of sorts. But, a "fakir can also be an exceptionally holy man. Our Western stereotype seems to always be the man who can walk over hot coals. In this case, because of the Latin elements mixed in with the Indian and jazz feelings, I used the Spanish spelling for the same type of man.

This tune was actually written as part of a suite for my composition class final, while attending U.C.L.A. in 1969. During my years there, 1965-1969, the music department did not even recognize the guitar (not even classical guitar) as an instrument, and so, to receive "performance credits, I had to take classes in ethnomusicology, which turned out to be a great gift. This led me to study the music of India; Bali; China; Japan; and México. Inspired by my classes in Indian music (though I now hardly remember anything about it), and our cultural fascination with that music via The Beatles, I sought to meld Indian instruments with jazz-oriented instruments, plus the requisite odd-meter time signatures. Initially my "Suite had a piece in 7/4, and this portion of it was in 11/4.

When I arrived in New York in 1970, one of my earliest bands, "Future Shock which, of all things, featured both Randy and Michael Brecker, and Don Grolnick, used to play this tune. Somewhere, in an old box of reel-to-reel tapes, I have a demo that we did. I haven't heard it in ages. Some years later, I recorded a version of the tune with saxophonist Steve Marcus, alongside Don, Will Lee, and Steve Gadd. At that time, the tune became much more akin to the "fusion music of those years. After that, I just let the tune go.

However, with the passing years, the bass ostinato stayed with me, and I sought to do a reworking of the entire piece, putting to use the best of what had transpired in live performances from the past. But, the "new arrangement was to be for the Caribbean Jazz Project, and would now add the Latin element to the mix, instead of the Indian elements. While in Caracas, Venezuela for the Holiday Season of 2001, I made a demo of the piece with the help of Rafael Greco. But, as fate would have it, my disagreements with Dave Samuels reached a breaking point, and I had to quit the band before what was to be the next recording.

As my new solo project was taking shape, I knew that I wanted to record this piece, but I would attempt to blend in all the varied cultural elements: jazz; Indian; and Latin music. It would require the presence of tabla master Badal Roy to bring home the Indian voice. Ralph Irizarry on timbal would add the Latin voice. Manolo Badrena would bring his other worldly sounds. Bob Mintzer was asked to play bass clarinet on the piece, a color inspired by the Miles Davis piece "Great Expectations from the Big Fun (Columbia, 1974) recording. And, of course, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette would bring their voices and the jazz elements to the performance. The idea is that, over the basic 11/4 ostinato, there are a variety of rhythmical elements taking place. Hopefully, they all work together as one.

Oh, I can't forget to mention that to create the full effect, we needed the sounds of the tamboura too. And so, Badal brought along his wife, Geeta to the session, and she brought her own sense of calm spirituality to the music. It made for a wonderful experience for everyone, and our group photo surrounding Badal and Geeta documents this. class="f-right s-img">


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