Steve Khan, Patchwork Review
It is Latin Grammy season, and the best of Latin releases seem to be recirculating on contributor’s minds. A Latin Jazz album that comes to mind for me is Patchwork subtitled in Spanish, “Medio Mezclado” by guitarist Steve Khan. The album represents the fourth in a serious where Khan enhances the guitar’s role in a mix of Latin and Latin jazz idioms. Joined by Rob Mounsey on keys and taking part in the orchestration with Rubén Rodríguez on baby bass and electric bass, Bobby Allende on conga, Marc Quiñones on timbal, bongó and percussion, and the luminary Dennis Chambers on drums. The album is rounded out with a cavalcade of guest artists, each enjoying their own successes as name-brand players. Randy Brecker is on flügelhorn; Bob Mintzer on tenor sax and Tatiana Parra lends her voice. Adding to the embodiment of the album is a composer, and keyboard artist Jorge Estrada who I might add appears on his own composition, “Huracán Clare,” which is dedicated to the indomitable Clare Fischer.
Positives: Steve’s commanding aesthetic is evident in each tune. His authenticity of the Latin vernacular execution is as fluid and as embracing as his imaginative performances. Each displays the potent acumen of a true player.
Bottom Line: Patchwork has nine tracks that present a wide range of styles. Khan’s command of Latin jazz is the focus, though. Leading off with Khan’s Latin jazz interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy (Epistrofia).” Khan’s beautiful guitar tone delivers effortless jazz lines and intricate chordal figures to build a solo that is entertaining and musical, all while staying grounded in the clave. Another of the many highlights is Joe Henderson’s “A Shade of Jade.” Randy Brecker makes a guest appearance on the track on flügelhorn. The rhythm section of Chambers on drums and Rodríguez on bass is outstanding. Add the percussion of Allende and Quiñones and these masters take the feel to another level. Brecker is expressive as he effortlessly explores his lines over the Latin jazz feel. Khan’s solo follows with an exciting combination of chords and quick lines that clearly outline the harmonic movements. His use of fourths and pentatonics is outstanding. A hip Latin montuno starts Ornette Coleman’s “C. & D.” Khan and guest saxophonist Bob Mintzer play the melody together. The deep groove is the perfect jump-off point for Mintzer’s impassioned solo. Khan’s well-written arrangement strikes a beautiful balance of written and improvised material. Again, Khan’s expressive guitar playing is a masterful combination of chords and single notes, a pianistic approach on the guitar few can master with such elegance. His syncing with the rhythm section is also of note here. Khan has a deep understanding of the history of jazz, Latin jazz, and how to translate that language in a meaningful and eloquent way through the guitar. Patchwork is a beautiful project from start to finish, and that’s the short of it!