Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

376

Steve Khan: Steve Khan: The Suitcase

Mark F. Turner By

Sign in to view read count
The trio is masterful, not just playing the music, but making each note, chord, and phrase come alive.
Steve Khan
The Suitcase
Tone Center
2008

In the annals of rediscovered live jazz recordings, The Suitcase, by guitarist Steve Khan, ranks among the best in recent memory. Nothing is quite like the experience of live jazz, but this 1994 performance at the Stadtgarten Club in Koln, Germany, is the next best thing to having been there.

The format is simple; as Khan modestly states, "It is an evening of trio music and trio music making." But there's nothing simple about the tremendous display of musicianship, energy and spontaneity that Khan, bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Dennis Chambers brought to the listeners, then and now, with this double CD set of over 150 minutes of music.

Khan's eminent and identifiable guitar work has spanned many years, authenticated on a who's who list which includes saxophonist Michael Brecker, pop icons Steely Dan and Joe Zawinul's Weather Update. Yet his own music as a leader is what sets Khan apart; works that include the eclectic "Eyewitness" recordings of the 1980s and his celebrated return with The Green Field (Tone Center, 2005) and Borrowed Time (Tone Center, 2007).

As usual, the guitarist surrounded himself with excellent players. Jackson proves that he is one of jazz's unique electric bassists, whose playing can rival the late Jaco Pastorius in terms of ingenuity. The creator of the Contrabass guitar (a specially designed six string electric bass), Jackson plays his axe like a standard guitar with resonance, lyricism and stylistic imprints. Chambers has been the drummer of choice for numerous artists including bassist Stanley Clarke and guitarists Mike Stern and Carlos Santana. Whether it's straight-ahead, fusion, or "Tearing the roof off the Muther" with George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic, he is a propulsive and versatile player.

The Suitcase features selections from Khan's earlier works spanning seven recordings from Eyewitness (Antilles, 1981) to Crossings (Verve, 1994). "Where's Mumphrey?" signals Khan's "eclecticity," music that encompasses his travels from the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela and Medellin, Colombia to the busy streets of his home in New York City. The very hip "What I'm Said" glides as Khan delivers the chorded melody, Jackson adds the bottom, and Chambers the pulse. Khan surprises on that tune, with a solo that's first clean and then given even more attitude with distortion.

Whether swinging lively on Khan's "Blue Zone 41" or articulating the workings of trumpeter Lee Morgan's ballad "Melancholee," the trio is masterful, not just playing the music, but making each note, chord, and phrase come alive. The many highlights on the first disc include Jackson's brilliant and otherworldly bass solo and performance on the title track (played in 6/4 with cryptic middle Eastern references) and Chambers' extended, double bass pedaled solo on "Blades" sounding as if two drummers are playing simultaneously.

Disc two is just as vitalized, beginning with the ultra stylish "Guy Lafleur" that is both atmospheric and melodious. Khan moves through intricate chordal changes, while Chambers delivers cow-belled accents and stimulating traps. Khan's spidery solo is then tinged with a nice effect (simple upper-octave supplied by a harmonizer), while Jackson's six-string is just as inventive, employing a variety of timbres. The tune ends with a mesmerizing pattern that lingers in the memory long after it's finished.

The trio's music is vivid. On "Eyewitness" the mood is dreamy, yet accentuated by the details of each instrument—the tap of a cymbal, a staccato bass run, tricky guitar intonations. Khan and Jackson have one of most interesting connections in music, giving and taking, tension and release, and always in flux. Their guitars engage in an elaborate dance on the beautiful "Dedicated To You," a song written by Khan's late father, songwriter Sammy Cahn. Or their incendiary exchanges on saxophonist Joe Henderson's "Caribbean Fire Dance," where Chambers delivers another awe-inspiring drum solo.

From start to finish The Suitcase is outstanding, with all the distinguishing elements of a live concert present—expectancy and surprise, improvisation and composition, performed by consummate musicians who gave it their all. The turn of events of how this recording materialized is a fascinating story in itself. Here's hoping that we get some more surprises of this caliber, especially from guitarist Steve Khan.


Tracks: CD1: Where's Mumphrey?; What I'm Said; Blue Zone 41; Melancholee; Played Twice; The Suitcase; Dr. Slump; Blades. CD2: Guy Lafleur; Uncle Roy; Eyewitness; Capricorn; Dedicated to You; Caribbean Fire Dance; Mr. Kenyatta.

Personnel: Steve Khan: guitar; Anthony Jackson: Contrabass guitar; Dennis Chambers: drums.

Title: Steve Khan: The Suitcase | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Tone Center

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Multiple Reviews
Rediscovery
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
In the Artist's Own Words
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
In the Artist's Own Words
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Public Access / Headline / Crossings

Public Access /...

BGO Records
2018

buy
Backlog

Backlog

Tone Center
2017

buy
Eyewitness Trilogy

Eyewitness Trilogy

BGO Records
2016

buy
Backlog

Backlog

ESC Records
2016

buy
Subtext

Subtext

Tone Center
2014

buy
Subtext

Subtext

Tone Center
2014

buy

Related Articles

Read Greatest Other People's Hits Extended Analysis
Greatest Other People's Hits
By Doug Collette
September 9, 2018
Read Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967 Extended Analysis
Heavy Music - The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967
By Doug Collette
September 8, 2018
Read Naima/Live in Berlin Extended Analysis
Naima/Live in Berlin
By Duncan Heining
August 30, 2018
Read Kaya 40 Extended Analysis
Kaya 40
By Nenad Georgievski
August 25, 2018
Read Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis
Anthem Of The Sun 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
By Doug Collette
August 4, 2018
Read Wodgi Extended Analysis
Wodgi
By Duncan Heining
August 4, 2018
Read In Memory of Lou Gare Extended Analysis
In Memory of Lou Gare
By Duncan Heining
August 3, 2018