Jazz Guitar: Brightness of Being / The Green Field

Mark F. Turner By

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When you think of jazz guitarists who have been influential since the '80s, names like Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Pat Metheny come to mind. Steve Khan and Paul Bollenback may not be as recognizable, but they're equally talented. Their new releases affirm why.

Paul Bollenback
Brightness of Being
Elefant Dreams

The music press is full of hype about the latest hot musicians, but many veterans can still spark new fires. Such is the case with guitarist Paul Bollenback. He's been a key performer for over fifteen years, enhancing the recordings of B3 organist Joey DeFrancesco, drummer Terri Lynne Carrington, drummer Jeff Tain Watts and many others with his liquid chops, blues-filled sound and amazing technique.

Brightness of Being features an impressive cast of performers, including saxophonist Gary Thomas, drummer Terri Lynn Carrington and singer Chris McNulty. Bollenback covers new material and a diverse set of interpretations of popular covers in R&B, country, pop and classical music, all done impressively his way.

He lays out some hot Motown soul on a groove/bop version of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing and "Unchain My Heart, featuring veteran saxman David "Fathead Newman and some sweet kit work by drummer Ari Hoenig. But while Bollenback can burn lightning chords a la Wes Montgomery, he is also poignant on the Ray Charles classic "You Don't Know Me and "Breathe, giving light to some deep acoustic guitar work. Add in a three-part classical opus, a lovely rendition of Neil Young's "Philadelphia featuring vocals by Chris McNulty, and the modern swing of "Siberian Passages, and Bollenback proves he is as hot as any new kid on the block.

Steve Khan
The Green Field
Tone Center

Steve Khan has consummate chops, a stylized approach, and an individual sound that developed from recordings in the '70s to a creative apex in the '80s, with one of the most eclectic fusion groups of the time: Eyewitness. Khan has been an in-demand session player with popular artists like the Brecker Brothers, Steely Dan and Joe Zawinul's Weather Update; he recently toured Europe with the New Sound Collective (Greg Osby, Terri Lyne Carrington and Jimmy Haslip). But there's nothing like his own music.

The new recording is characteristic of Khan's unique brand of swinging, modern transglobal jazz. As usual, his ensemble features no piano or keyboards, and he continues to expertly intertwine comping and solos with lyricism. Rejoined by veteran bassist John Pattitucci and drummer Jack DeJohnette, who were an integral part of Khan's Got My Mental (1996), the guitarist has also recruited special guests Ralph Irizarry (timbales), Roberto Quintero (congas) and a longtime collaborator, percussionist Manolo Badrena.

On vibrant new material and fresh interpretations of standards, Khan's playing is a fluid as ever, with excellent phrasing and spacing on "El Viñón and "You Stepped Out of a Dream," which also spotlights Patitucci's formidable bass work. Other highlights include the percussion-rich "Cosecha lo que Has Sembrado and the eighteen-minute "The Green Field, which is effectively a drum and percussion canvas with Khan adding colorful guitar hues. It's been nine long years since Khan's last recording as a leader, but this new one is well worth the wait.

Brightness of Being

Track Listing: Together; Unchain My Heart; Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing; Breathe; You Don't Know Me; 7 a.m. Special; El Desierto; Dark Eyes of Floria Tosca parts 1-3; Philadelphia; Siberian Passage.

Personnel: Paul Bollenback: guitars; David "Fathead" Newman: tenor saxophone (2,6), Gary Thomas: tenor saxophone; Tim Garland: soprano saxophone, tenro saxophone, bass clarinet; James Genus: bass; Terri-Lyne Carrington: drums; Ari Honnig: drums; Chris McNulty: voice (4,7,11,12).

The Green Field

Track Listing: El Viñón; Congeniality; Riot; Fist in Glove; Cosecha lo que Has Sembrado; Sanctuary/Nefertiti; Eronel; You Stepped Out of a Dream; The Green Field.

Personnel: Steve Khan: guitar; John Patitucci: acoustic bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums; Manolo Badrena; percussion, voice; Ralph Irizarry: timbales (3,5,6,8); Roberto Quintero: congas, percussion (3,5,6,8).

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