There was the stunning electric guitar solo on the
disco-fueled, big band cover of the Star Wars theme with Maynard
Ferguson. Then there was the beautiful end solo to Steely Dan’s “Glamour
Profession.” And apart from those, there were guest appearances with
numerous other artists, his partnership with keyboardist Rob Mounsey and a
brilliant solo career. The point is, you see Steve Khan’s name, you know
what you’re going to get: musical fulfillment. That tradition continues
with Backlog (Tone Center Records, 2017).
this date are Ruben Rodriguez, baby bass and electric bass; Mark Walker,
drums; Marc Quinones, timbal, bongo and percussion; and Bobby Allende,
conga and bongo. Guests appearing selected tracks are Randy Brecker,
trumpet on “Latin Genetics”; Bob Mintzer, tenor sax on “Invisible”; Mike
Mainieri, vibes on “Head Start”; Rob Mounsey, keyboards, orchestrations
and orchestral arrangements on several songs; and Tatiana Parra, voice on
Khan’s treatment of Ornette Coleman’s “Latin Genetics”
presents a festive offering. Khan and Brecker are in unison for the
melody. The rhythm section is as prominent here as the two leads, offering
plenty of variety as they maintain the beat. Brecker and Khan take turns
adding to the block party mood with extended solos.
in for fellow vibist Bobby Hutcherson’s “Head Start.” The combination of
guitar and vibraphone creates an ethereal element. Rodriguez’s groove is
felt throughout. And the trio of Walker, Quinones and Allende jam it up on
Mounsey joins for Khan’s take on “Go Home.” With
the percussionists doing their thing and Rodriguez delivering a cool bass
line, Khan covers the Stevie Wonder vocal lead. Though this arrangement is
mostly faithful to the original, Khan and his partners give it plenty of
Though these aren’t original songs, Khan
makes them his own with fresh arrangements and, of course, his style of
play. Several of the songs are also given Spanish subtitles, “Latin
Genetics (Genetica Latina)” and “Go Home (Vete a Casa),” for example.
Over his career, Khan has skillfully moved from genre to genre, often
within a session, hitting Latin or Afro-Cuban music, Great American
Songbook standards, fusion and more. Backlog is his fifth solo
release after a 10-year hiatus from recording as a leader. The others are
Borrowed Time (2007), The Green Field (2005),
Parting Shot (2011) and Subtext (2015).
on New York City’s “downtown” scene in the 1970s, before his appearance on
Maynard Ferguson’s New Vintage (Columbia, 1977). But it was in
1981 when he released the first of three albums with a quartet named for
the debut album, Eyewitness.