Steve Khan: The Making of "Parting Shot"
It was always my plan to record this tune first, because I knew that it would give a clear group picture, and I would know immediately if we had the best possible recorded sound for the chordal passages, and the single-note line passages. One of the reasons that I wanted to work again with recording engineer James Farber was that the sound that he created for Crossings (1994) remains as my most beautifully recorded CD. When I heard the rough mixes of this tune, I knew that we would be relatively close to that sound. However, there's a huge difference between the old Skyline Studios on the 6th Floor, and Avatar Studio A."
Of course, I had a very definite structural plan for this tune, with the idea being that, after the solo section and a final "breakdown" section, we would play both parts of the melody, but only one time each. Then, the piece would fade out as I returned to soloing over the Bb blues form. Well, Bobby Allende had other ideas, and suggested that, after the final melody section, we should just play the breakdown figure, and Dennis would solo on the way out. I can't say that I loved that ideastructurally speakingbut I've learned to listen to my band mates, and I just went with "the flow." What you now hear is exactly what happened. As always, Dennis played a great solo, and I left the performance completely intact. As you can hear, there is no fade.
My impression now, after some listening to the performance, is that this piece best exemplifies what can happen when the looseness of the Eyewitness concept of music-making meets some of the most important elements of Latin music. You can hear Manolo's spirit floating/darting in-and-out of the texturejust as it should, and as it has always been in the past. You can also hear the interplay, the level of communication between Anthony, Dennis, Manolo and methis, of course, is hugely important!!
On a side note, and this rarely, if ever, happens, the great John McLaughlin stopped by the studio that day to say "Hello!" to everyone, as he had been in town to tape a TV performance w/ The Roots on Jimmy Fallon's show. I think that the last time that I saw John was somewhere in Europe when I was touring with Anthony and Dennis.
 Bye-ya (Thelonious Monk)(4:30)
When I first recorded this tune on Evidence in 1980, I had been inspired by Monk's version that appears on his Monk's Dream recording, from 1963. But, early in 2010, when I writing a piece for my website on Joe Zawinul's interpretation of "Little Rootie Tootie," I discovered that I hadn't been aware of the original recorded version of "Bye-ya" which appeared on Monk's first recording for the Prestige label in 1952, The Thelonious Monk Trio. But, what was most stunning for me about this "discovery" was that drummer Art Blakey approached the tune with a decided Latin feel. Later in 2010, when I was certain that my recording would be totally committed to Latin music, I knew that this was a tune that I wanted to interpret again, but this time from a different rhythmic perspective.
I had made the original demo for this piece using Marc Quiñones' "plena" groove from his Latin Samples CD. But, when Marc and Bobby arrived for the rehearsal, and this tune was called, he told me that he thought that it would be better if we played it as a "bomba." Once again, I just gave in to the experts and had to let go of what I had thought that we were going to do.
As I often try to do when interpreting Monk's music, I take the given elements and try to make a solo format that feels comfortable to me, but at the same time, is also faithful to the composition, just not as rigidly tied to all the elements. I just don't believe that any soloist has to become a "prisoner" of the solo form. So, I expanded the [A] sections, though the [B] sections remain exactly as Monk conceived them. Also, during the [A] sections, Marc makes a series of accents, catching Rob Mounsey's pizzicato string hits, and this touch reflects the accents contained within Monk's composition.
Emerging from the guitar solo, there's a brief 16-bar reprise of the intro, over which Dennis Chambers plays a fantastic solo. Of course, looking back, I wish that this had been much, much longer!!!
 María Mulambo (Steve Khan-Manolo Badrena)(10:20)
I don't know where I came up with the idea that James Brown's "Doin' It To Death" groove could be combined with an Afro-Cuban 6/8 feelbut, I was confident that this could work. However, I knew that, in order to make it feel right from both perspectives, I would have to have two rhythm guitar parts playing. So, knowing that, I knew that I would have to create a track against which the band would perform live, and we would not lose the improvised element that is the most important element of all.