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Steve Khan: Subtext

Mark F. Turner By

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Track review of "Baraka Sasa"

Steve Khan: Subtext From his obscure gems on Columbia Records—Tightrope (1977), The Blue Man (1978) and Arrow (1979), or the critically acclaimed 1980s Eye Witness recordings, to 2011's Latin-tinged Parting Shot (Tone Center), jazz guitarist Steve Khan continues to deliver his unique artistry—exquisite touch, expressive solos, and warm tonality—that's made his music identifiable. Subtext finds that mastery still intact with a renewed mix of originals and covers.

In addition to Khan's musicianship, he's always been a great interpreter of standards, giving his own personality and insights to Thelonious Monk's music with six-string acoustic guitar in 1981's Evidence and the swinging percussion remake of Wayne Shorter's "Paraphernalia" in 1997's Got My Mental (ESC). One of his reworks in Subtext is cover of Freddie Hubbard's "Baraka Sasa" (Swahili for "blessings now") from the trumpeter's 1974 release High Energy (Columbia).

What was true in 1974 holds true with Khan's rendition: this is unadulterated dance music. Where Hubbard's original painted the dance floor with electric funk in the vein of Herbie Hancock's iconic Headhunters (Columbia, 1973), complete with, Sci-Fi sound effects, and his honey-toned trumpet, Khan's love for Latin music transforms the tune into a percussive party incorporated with Orisha rhythms in the intro, a variation on a Mambo rhythm in the body, and a Charanga, as Khan states, "thrown in for good measure."

Its tight groove is expertly provided by percussionist Marc Quinones, drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Ruben Rodriguez. While the percussion and rhythm section drive the track, Khan's soloing, chording, and colorizations provide the melodic pocket. The guitarist's masterful accompaniment near the end is where the music hits the sweet spot; that in-the-pocket goodness that beckons you to press the repeat button and get on your feet and move.

Personnel: Steve Khan: guitar; Rubén Rodriguez: electric bass, baby bass; Dennis Chambers: drums; Marc Quiñones: timbal, bongo, percussion; Bobby Allende: conga; Rob Mounsey: orchestration.

Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Tone Center | Style: Beyond Jazz


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