It's tough for artists to remain viable in a fast-paced environment in which hype is focused on the latest flavor of the week or whatever technology and media is creating a buzz. As usual, jazz gets caught in the flux, but guitarist Steve Khan continues to demonstrate that it's not just about the technology or complexity, but the music and who's playing it. Off the heels of the superb live recording The Suitcase (Tone Center, 2008), Khan continues his love affair with Latin music in Parting Shot .
A reunion of consummate musician friends that include percussionist Manolo Badrena and bassist Anthony Jackson, the recording has both familiarity and freshness found in Khan's extensive discography that spans from the eclectism of his 1981 Eyewitness group. The enduring genius of Khan is trifold: interpretation and melodism; his unselfishness as a band leader; and chops (tone, fluidity, and superb accompaniment) that are uniquely his own.
His passion for Latin music is rooted from exposure to non-Latino artist recordings in the 1950s by (Cal Tjader, Herbie Hancock, and Grant Green); the vibrancy of New York's music scene, and travels abroad in Venezuela and Colombia. Intoxicating percussion is one of the main ingredients in the ten compositions, thoroughly enhanced by masters such as Marc Quiñones, and girded by Jackson's contrabass and all-purpose scissoring from drummer Dennis Chambers.
Khan reworks standards like no one else as he preserves the essence of the source material while interjecting something new and unusual. Ornette Coleman's "Blues Connotation" has a sick groove that's splashed with Badrena's array of natural sound effects, a rain forest of percussion, and the guitarist's signature solo chording and volume swells.
The originals are also identifiable: "Mari Mulambo" gets nasty with a funky James Brown riff coupled with spicy Afro-Cuban rhythm and vocals. Then there's the slow cooked "Zancudoville," with Khan on steel-string acoustic and amps, and also a slightly distorted effect on electric guitar. It also features guest Rob Mounsey on keyboards, a throwback of sorts to their Grammy -nominated duo release, Local Color (Denon, 1987).
The release concludes with a "percussion jam" firestorm in "Just Deserts," provided by Quiñones, Chambers, and Bobby Allende; Khan's inventive chord progression working the changes while propelling the drum dance. It's easy to understand and hear Khan's passion for Latin music. Parting Shot is absolutely infectious.
Chronology; Los Gaiteros; Change Agent; Bye-Ya; María Mulambo; Influences Peddler; When She's Not Here; Blues Connotation; Zancudoville; Just Deserts.
Steve Khan: guitar; Anthony Jackson: contrabass guitar; Dennis Chambers: drums; Manolo Badrena: percussion, voice (5, 10); Marc Quiñones: timbale, bongo, percussion; Bobby Allendes: conga; Rob Mounsey: keyboards (9), orchestrations (2, 4, 6 7); Tatiana Parra: voice (6), Andrés Beeeuwsaert: voice (6).
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