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

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Beyond those all too realistic and fatalistic feelings, 'time' is an essential part of the musical experience too. One must 'feel time' in order to be able to play with other musicians. It is essential.
Steve[Editor's Note: With the critical acclaim for Steve Khan's first album as a leader in ten years, The Green Field (Tone Center, 2006), hopes were high that another decade wouldn't have to pass before the guitarist moved forward with another project.

With the release of Borrowed Time (Tone Center, 2007), Khan leverages on the successes of The Green Field with an album that's more ambitious in scope. Alongside the returning core trio featuring bassist John Patitucci and drummer Jack DeJohnette, a host of guests—including five percussionists, flugelhorn, bass clarinet, keyboards and vocals—expand the sonic groundwork of The Green Field for an album that's in many ways career-defining.

As with The Green Field, Khan has been kind enough to provide his own personal reflections on the making of Borrowed Time. Fascinating anecdotes about the session, technical details and a wealth of information that explains how Khan has arrived where he is at today make this an entertaining and educational window into the process of record-making.]

Chapter Index
  1. Introduction
  2. I Mean You
  3. Mr. and Mrs. People
  4. Face Value
  5. El Faquir
  6. You're My Girl
  7. Blues for Ball
  8. Have You Met Miss Jones?
  9. Moon and Sand/Luna y Arena
  10. Hymn Song


Introduction

Well, as you now know, this CD is titled Borrowed Time (Tiempo Prestado), and with each passing day the phrase has more and more meaning for me.

Here, in our culture.....we often use the expression: "Living on borrowed time....." It is used to signify that the end of life is near and, in the days that remain, that person is "stealing extra time (borrowed time) to live and to enjoy life in some fashion to its fullest. So yes, beyond a particular age, one comes to feel this way, at least a little bit.....and I do feel that, perhaps a bit too much, on any given day.

I also chose a particular Jean-Michel Folon image for the U.S. cover, because "our world" is now "living on borrowed time....." and if we don't do something to save it, and soon, we will leave those behind, our children, with nothing!!! So, there is this significance too. The Folon image, which appears on the Japanese and European covers, is titled "The Theater of Time" and bears a "clock." This is a far more obvious way to express the meaning of the precious nature of time.

But beyond those all too realistic and fatalistic feelings, "time" is an essential part of the musical experience too. One must "feel time in order to be able to play with other musicians. It is essential. Michael Brecker made a fantastic CD, which he called Time is of the Essence; in the same regard he was speaking of both things metaphorically.

As a player, one must have a certain amount of self-confidence, at times bordering on arrogance, about just how they "feel time (their own sense of time/pulse/rhythm). Yet, underneath it all, there is always an insecurity lurking.....ready to destroy that self-confidence at a moment's notice. I often feel that, and it tends to torture me, and causes me great inner pain. But, I go on in spite of it. And so, in my way, sometimes, as a musician, I "borrow the time" of others, and I lean on them to find my own. And yet, there are moments where I know that they must lean on me......and, it is that feeling that brings on the return of my own strength.

So, if there is a significance, a personal meaning to the title, then it is perhaps to be found on those three levels, those layers.

And now, here are my "Personal Reflections" for this recording: class="f-right s-img">

"I Mean You (Thelonious Monk-Coleman Hawkins) (8:00)

Once again, I am drawn to return to the music of Thelonious Monk. The version of inspiration comes from his recording, Big Band and Quartet in Concert (Columbia, 1964), which was recorded on December 30th, 1963 at New York's Philharmonic Hall, with arrangements by Hall Overton. Here, I sought to again meld Latin elements with Jack DeJohnette's special talents. As our little quintet with John Patitucci, Jack, Ralph Irizarry and Roberto Quintero, we had actually rehearsed this arrangement for The Green Field sessions, but we just weren't ready to attempt to record it at that time. And so, I had to let it go.

This time, however, I made certain that the complex rhythmical details would make sense to all the players, and with Rob Mounsey's help I made a demo to be given, in advance, to everyone. You can now hear the results of everyone's hard work. The piece moves in and out of the expected swing 4/4 and an Afro-Cuban mix in 6/8, which, only during the first melody statement, features Jack's brushes playing the "abakwa counter-rhythm. I first heard this done on an old Jazz Crusaders recording titled, Chili Con Soul (Pacific Jazz, 1965), when Clare Fischer did something similar for his arrangement of "The Breeze and I. It was something I have never forgotten.

The fade section features yet another spectacular drum solo from Jack. It's so great to hear him bashing away in this kind of a rhythmic setting. One must keep in mind that, when attempting to blend Jack DeJohnette with authentic Latin musicians, the idea is not to turn Jack into a "Latin player. The concept is simply to find the way in which he can be himself, and the essence of the Latin rhythms will be unchanged. For this performance I tried to tell Jack: "Just play the same way you would play if you were playing 'Footprints' or even 'Someday My Prince Will Come,' and everything should turn out fine. I would like to believe that this piece of advice helped in some small way. class="f-right s-img">

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