Fusion, pop, jazz, rock, straight ahead. It doesn't seem to matter where the music goes. Steve Khan's been there, quite often traveling with some heavy hitters. Bob James, Maynard Ferguson, Steely Dan, Joe Zawinul, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and the Brecker Brothers are just a few of the powerhouses with whom Khan has recorded or toured over his career. His skills are so well-honed that he's drawn comparisons to some of jazz's great guitarists, including Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny and Django Reinhardt. The Green Field
, Khan's first release as a leader in nine years, features John Patitucci on acoustic bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Manolo Badrena adds percussion and voice to several tracks, while Ralph Irizarry (timbales) and Roberto Quintero (congas and percussion) contribute to a few selections. The 77-minute album is a mix of Khan originals and covers of songs by Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Thelonius Monk.
The first two tracks, Khan's "El Vinon and Coleman's "Congeniality, at 9:21 and 8:07, respectively, give the guitarist and his sidemen plenty of room to stretch out. Patitucci and DeJohnette do more than just keep time. They're in their own zones as they complement the leader. Badrena assists on "Congeniality, which also features Patitucci on an extended solo. While a bit shorter, the next six tracks also give the musicians plenty of time to explore. Irizarry and Quintero join the ensemble for a slick rendition of Hancock's "Riot. The percussive elements make this song stand out and give it a strong Latin American flavor. Pay particular attention to DeJohnette's synchronization on the cymbals with Khan's lead. About midway through the piece, the others take a break, leaving DeJohnette to riot by himself. He does so and with plenty of flare.
There are times when it's not clear who the leader is, which is a good thing. A "solo album doesn't mean the artist has to dominate. On "Cosecha lo que has sembrado, Khan's tribute to Tito Puente and Willie Bobo, the leader is more of a rhythm guitarist while Irizarry, Quintero and DeJohnette take point. The percussion ensemble opens with the lead, then each player in turn delivers a sizzling solo. DeJohnette really shows out, giving a heavy dose of the toms along with adept snare and cymbals play. The song shifts gears just before the six-minute mark, when Khan and Patitucci become more visible.
These are just some of the highlights of an exceptional, unrestrained jazz album. As if the highlights weren't enough, the eighteen-minute title song is a stunning closer. It would be misleading to say that Khan was ever gone from the music scene. However, The Green Field is evidence that he's definitely back!
Personnel: Steve Khan, guitar; John Patitucci, acoustic bass; Jack Dejohnette, drums; Manolo Badrena,
percussion and voice. With Ralph Irizarry: timbales; and Roberto Quintero: congas and