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In the Artist's Own Words

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

By Published: June 6, 2007
"You're My Girl (Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne) (7:00)

One might think that, growing-up in our home, I would have known or heard all of my father's songs, and constantly. But, this was not always the case. And the truth is that, I really never knew this song, perhaps because it was written just before I was born? It appeared in the Broadway musical High Button Shoes, which opened in 1947 (the year of my birth), and ran through 1949. The latter date is the year of my sister Laurie's birth.

It was, in fact, my sister who inspired me to investigate this song. At her daughter Rachel's Bat Mitzvah now, many years ago, Laurie courageously sang this song to her daughter without accompaniment. It was a very special and beautiful moment, one which has stayed with me for years. And so, this served as the inspiration to finally record the tune. There is, of course, a very lovely version by Frank Sinatra.

To complete this tribute to my sister and my father, I decided, after much thought, to reharmonize a small piece of the "hit song from the same Broadway show, "Papa Won't You Dance with Me (which is really a very corny, traditional 2-beat, up-tempo song), but play it rubato and romantically as an intro. And so, that is how it now appears. It was the last tune John, Jack, Manolo and I performed after a long, long day on January 9th, 2007. As it always has been, it's an absolute thrill to play with Jack when he's using his brushes. His artistry at this is almost without peer. class="f-right s-img">

"Blues for Ball (McCoy Tyner) (7:04)

I have been playing this tune for years now in a trio context. It was always a favorite of mine since I first heard McCoy Tyner's double-LPSuper Trios (Milestone, 1977) with one trio that included Eddie Gomez (acoustic bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums) from April, 1977. Initially, I played the tune in the same key in which McCoy played it, that is, C minor. I recorded a great version of it on a "demo I did with Jay Anderson (acoustic bass) and Joel Rosenblatt (drums).

When I finally tried to record the tune for Headline (Blue Moon, 1992) I was in the company of Anthony Jackson (contrabass guitar); Dennis Chambers (drums); and Manolo Badrena (percussion). That version was really spectacular but sadly it was badly recorded and unusable. But, a good portion of that is my fault. Playing this tune on the guitar in C minor makes it very difficult for the top notes of the melody to speak properly because of the dense harmony.

When I decided to attempt to record this tune again, I moved the key up to E minor in hopes that the melody would be able to be heard clearly. And so, alongside John Patitucci, Jack DeJohnette, and Manolo Badrena, I gave it another try. I'm very pleased with this version, but sadly, because of time constraints, it just couldn't fit on the 78-minute CD, The Green Field.. When I decided to mix this tune in May of 2006, it somehow inspired me to find a way to record again, and complete some of the work that this trio plus percussion has pursued since Got My Mental (Evidence, 1996). I really hope that everyone enjoys this performance. class="f-right s-img">

"Have You Met Miss Jones? (Rodgers-Hart) (8:09) Originally, I just decided to do this arrangement for fun. I had always loved McCoy Tyner's version of this great old standard on his recording titled, Reaching Fourth (Impulse!, 1963), which featured some incredible brushwork from Roy Haynes. But, more than this, I wanted to see if I could apply all that I had learned from my harmonic studies of Clare Fischer's work. And so, this version is a tribute to both of these great keyboard artists. Over the years, the full arrangement has undergone a multitude of changes and adjustments, right up to the last moments before recording it. After quite a bit of work writing everything out, each voicing, in Clare's harmonic style, and using a McCoy Tyner fragment as a thematic device, I felt ready to make a sequenced computerized "demo. And so, I was lucky enough to enlist the help of my dear friend Rafael Greco, who resides in Caracas, Venezuela, to help me to create a Latin rhythmic underpinning for the arrangement. We had an amazing amount of fun putting it together. At that time, I would not have had much of a clue as to just what each percussion instrument would do: congas; timbales; bongos; güiro, etc. In the end, the form was set up for one solo which would be three choruses in length, each one building in strength. Rafael helped me to create the rhythmic breaks at the beginning of choruses one and two.

As I have done on past recordings when playing with Rob Mounsey, I always like to separate myself from his gorgeous keyboard sounds by playing acoustic guitar. So, on this tune, I knew that my Yamaha APX-10N nylon-string would become my voice. On an interesting side note, just two weeks prior to the recording, I finally went into my instrument closet to begin practicing on the nylon-string. Yet, when I opened the case I discovered that the bridge had completely snapped-off, become unglued, and the instrument was unplayable! I immediately ran downtown to Norio Imai's repair shop and learned that he would be able to repair the guitar in time for the recording. Wow, I felt so very lucky!

As the recording approached, I wanted to accommodate Randy Brecker on flugelhorn, and so the solo format would now repeat. However, there was still one missing piece to this harmonic homage to the Fischer style within the Latin genre—I knew that there had to be a montuno somewhere. To write such a thing, and in 3:2 rumba clave was something for which I am wholly unqualified. And, as great as he might be, it is not something with which Rob Mounsey is conversant.

As I am lucky enough to have some great friendships amongst Latino keyboard artists, I called upon another Venezolano, Luis Perdomo and asked him to help me by writing out two different montunos for each [B] section of the second and third choruses of both solos. The trick was that the montunos had to remain "in the style of all the voicings. It wasn't long before Luis had sent me two really wonderful versions, which I wrote into the arrangement and, of course, Rob Mounsey played them with care, feeling and energy. Perhaps they will go by unnoticed, but for me they make a huge difference and give those choruses a lift. Mil gracias Luis!!!

As part of the original arrangement I had written a 32-bar open section which became labeled as [D] and, at first, I thought that this could be a spot for either a timbales solo or perhaps a conga solo. But, after spending so much time listening to the original demo, I came to feel that it might be best if I wrote what is called, in some circles, a horn "soli" but, in Latin music circles, it is known as a "moña. In either case, it would be played by Randy and me, and would provide some great accents for Marc Quiñones to negotiate on timbales. This he does brilliantly. In writing the moña, I took a melodic fragment from the tune, and use it to glue everything together. In addition to that, in some small way, my usage of upper neighboring tones is an affectionate tribute to Randy Brecker and his linear style of composition. This alone made it extra fun to play it, and especially to play it with him.

Clockwise from top left: John Patitucci, Steve Khan, Jack DeJohnette

To have been there to witness the rhythmic components of the track come together in the masterful hands of Marc and Bobby Allende was wonderful for me. For anyone who has followed the contemporary New York Salsa scene over the past two decades, they would know that these two great percussionists have played on more Salsa hits than anyone can imagine. They have a very particular New York/Puerto Rican "swing to their playing, and for me, it's just thrilling to have that unique perspective represented on this recording. It's really gratifying that we finally got to do something like this. Though Marc had to issue me several "citations for violating the clave on earlier incarnations of the arrangement, I did my best to make adjustments to fix the "trouble bars. Trying to write convincingly in 3:2 rumba clave is really difficult for me. class="f-right s-img">


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