Steve Khan: Reflections on the Making of "Borrowed Time"
"Moon and Sand/Luna y Arena (Wilder-Engvick-Palitz) (6:00) The first time I ever heard Alec Wilder's beautiful and mysterious composition was on Kenny Burrell's great recording from the '60s titled, Guitar Forms (Verve, 1964), which featured a haunting arrangement by Gil Evans. Many years later, I also came to adore Keith Jarrett's version on Standards Vol. 2 (ECM, 1985) which features the incredible brushwork of Jack DeJohnette. In truth, I never knew that there were lyrics to the tune until I heard Chet Baker's version on the Let's Get Lost (BMG, 1989) soundtrack. It was just so sad to hear him sound like that, but the lyrics, and the story were so beautiful. In my research, I later discovered a version from the 1940s by Xavier Cugat, leading me to believe that this song might have been a kind of World War II love song.
The arrangement that you now hear was actually written as a Christmas gift for an ex-fiancée, in hopes that it would inspire her to resume her singing career, which she had always spoken about. But sadly, it just never happened, and this wonderful track existed for several years without a vocal. My dear friend Rafael Greco wrote the Spanish lyrics because none existed. The Cugat version was sung in English.
So, in 2002, after a painful break-up, I just did not want to allow all this work to go to waste, so I sought to find a way to have a vocal to, at the very least, feel that the work had arrived at a conclusion. The first person I contacted about singing on this track was Gabriela Anders, who is from Argentina. Gaby and I had done a wonderful project together some years before. I was hoping that she would like the track so much that she might include it on one of her CDs. But, for some reason, at that point in time, she just had no interest in singing on it. That was very disappointing for me. But, I had to respect her wishes.
As 2006 was passing by, and this new recording project was taking shape, and, knowing that both "Face Value and "Have You Met Miss Jones? were going to be part of the recording, and furthermore, that Marc Quiñones, Rubén Rodriguez, and Bobby Allende would be part of it, I knew, and with certainty, that the sound and feel of this track would be a good match with those other tunes. And so, as difficult as it might have been, I decided to try to contact Gaby again to see if her feelings might have changed, and if she'd be willing to sing on it. As fate and/or luck would have it, this time, she seemed to be so genuinely excited about singing it.
I had always known that she was the right singer for this track, because, in my opinion, it requires a very breathy voice, almost Brazilian in style, and this is a quality that Gaby has naturally. It is not something that I have coax out of her. In short, I am thrilled that we could do this together.
The little flügelhorn "coro at the end was played beautifully by Randy Brecker. Again, as it is with the vocal, I asked Randy to play it in a Brazilian, and very breathy style, with a touch of Burt Bacharach too!!! And that's what you now hear. In truth, that portion of this arrangement actually owes a debt of gratitude to Wes Montgomery because it was inspired by a small portion of a phrase from Claus Ogerman's string arrangement for the Wes classic, "Bumpin' on Sunset. It is a nice thing to now take a moment and to account for all the diverse influences and inspirations that reside within a single piece of music.
More than anything, "Luna y Arena is included here because it serves as a beautiful ballad, nothing more. In a way, it is rare that three ballads are included on any recording, and that two of them are boleros done in the Latin style. The goal remains the same: try to produce a work of great and lasting beauty! That's all!
Here's another of McCoy Tyner's originals from the same Super Trios recording on which he performs with a trio that included Eddie Gomez (acoustic bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums) from April, 1977. I have always loved the romance and majesty of the harmonies he employs here. And, for my interpretation, I knew that it would rhythmically fall into the zone of the cha-cha-cha. So, with that in mind, I decided to make this the "percussion feature for the Borrowed Time CD. Again, it features spirited solos from Roberto Quintero (conga); Ralph Irizarry (timbal); and finally, Jack DeJohnette (drums). All this is done before a breakdown, and then the tempos double with an edge, as we launch into a "plena for a time.
The night before the session, I was home trying to practice, and plan ahead for any eventuality that might occur. I thought to myself, "What if, for some reason, Roberto doesn't think to bring with him a 'güira' for the plena section? It won't sound and feel authentic! You might be wondering, "What's a 'güira'? Well, it's a metallic cylinder with lots of ridges and it is usually played with something that resembles a metal "comb of sorts. It provides a very different kind of scraping sound. Once we had performed the track, it was time for Roberto's overdubs, and when we arrived at the plena section, I looked at him, and asked him if he had brought along his güira and, of course, he had forgotten to bring it. I never panicked, because I knew that I could say, "Don't worry! in Spanish.... I've got mine here! Ralph Irizarry began to laugh hysterically that, of all things, I could have remembered to have brought mine. Yet, when you listen to this section, try to imagine it without this sound!!! The feeling would be very, very different.
The entire double-time fade provides me with an opportunity to explore one of the great, yet simple, chord progressions used for such montunos. It goes as: ||: Imaj | V7 | V7 | Imaj :|| Once you have any progression which includes a V7-Imaj, the improviser becomes free to insert or insinuate any of the possibilities for linear resolution. It goes without saying that I enjoy this kind of open space very much.
Steve Khan Reflects on Recording The Green Field (2006)
Top Photo: Paul Aresu
Center Photo: Richard Laird
Bottom Photo: Mark Wohlrab