WBGO Radar

Steve Khan: Subtext

Guitarist Steve Khan's album Subtext

Guitarist Steve Khan comes to the musicplace once again with Subtext, a new recording whose chordal and single note lines sparkle, revealing his creative prowess.

Steve recruits the special talents of drummer Dennis Chambers and percussionists Marc Quiñones and Bobby Allende, who join bassist Reuben Rodriguez, and Khan’s own six strings, to work the magic that has built up a dedicated following over 40 years.

Ornette Coleman's "Bird Food" is a homecoming vehicle for Randy Brecker on flugelhorn to get into the mix with Steve, rekindling a friendship dating back to the 1960s.

Rob Mounsey steps up with some keyboard colors on Khan's "Blue Subtext," one of the three leader-written pieces on the release.

Freddie Hubbard's "Baraka Sasa" from his 1974 "High Energy" release stayed in Steve's mind from a date played with Hubbard years back.

A Mambo rhythm, with some charanga thrown in, give Steve’s chordal and single note lines a chance to groove the tune to a new destination, with all the original Hubbard melodic sections apparent.

"Infant Eyes," one of Wayne Shorter's stories, combines the feel of Cal Tjader with a nod to the harmonies of a Clare Fischer chart, nourished by some nice Mounsey string colors. Khan's own guitar work is outstanding, with an intent to focus on the romance over rhythm.

Remembering a European tour with Greg Osby and Terri Lyne Carrington, Khan and this group explore Osby's "Heard" with a cha-cha feel, allowing Steve’s chordal harmonizing and single notes to take center stage.

"Never Let Me Go" shows Khan’s sensitivity to ballads, with hints of bolero and the excellent brush work of Dennis Chambers. One could hear Nat Cole or Shirley Horn singing, with the guitarist string-singing this one to perfection.

Steve told me he's long been a fan of the folkloric music from the northern region of Colombia. "Cada Gota De Mar," by Khan and Uruguayan singer/instrumentalist Mariana Ingold, uses Cumbia and Bomba rhythms from Puerto Rico to open up a spirited course for guest accordionist Gil Goldstein, who spices it up around Ingold's voice and Khan's guitar work.

Steve Khan fans would be disappointed if there wasn't some Khanish Monk to be had. Dusting off an old arrangement of "Hackensack", Steve 's linear and chordal approach embodies, as he says, "so many of the elements that have grown into my playing."

Khan's "Bait and Switch" is a Cha-cha-cha closer. Rob Mounsey's double reed creation goes sweetly with Khan's funky nod to Joe Zawinul, amongst drummer Chambers' fatback grooves.

The far-reaching freshness of Steve Khan's guitar work and tune visions continue in abundance on "Subtext", out June 24th from Tone Center Records. 

    - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

Audio for this album is no longer available. To preview and purchase, visit Amazon.

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