Saturday, October 10, 2015

Steve Khan - 1990 "Public Access"

Steve Khan is a bit of an enigma in jazz guitar circles, as he neither clearly succeeds nor fails in any of his efforts. This is an exception, however, as the presence of Dave Weckl makes for one of the best GRP releases of the '90s. Khan's sound is still a bit weak, but his compositions are strong, as is the amazing percussion of Manolo Badrena. A longtime collaborator with Khan, Badrena seems to have every type of percussion ever made and uses them all effectively. Weckl thrives on the Latin rhythms and both players are complementary to each other. As with his other recordings, Khan's solos are not very interesting, and like Larry Coryell, he tries to play too fast. Despite this, they all seem to be having a great time. "Kamarica" is one of the happiest tunes here and contains some phenomenal soloing by Weckl. "Botero People" has a nice relaxed feel and a great bassline, proving that the tunes here are well written with a focus on rhythm rather than just improvisation. Although Badrena's singing is in Spanish, it is pleasant and an integral part of the music even if you don't know what he's saying. "Mama Chola" is the most intense piece here and features more great soloing by Weckl, who not only helps hold the band together, but actually manages to carry it for the majority of the session.

 Some 5 years after "CASA LOCO" had finally been released, Steve, Anthony, and Manolo made the commitment to record together again, this time, Eyewitness was joined by Dave Weckl on drums. The new compositions took the work the band had done with the extended song form to new heights. Because of the promotional power of GRP Records, this album reached the most people worldwide during the CD Age.

 Steve Khan is a bit of an enigma in jazz guitar circles, as he neither clearly succeeds nor fails in any of his efforts. This is an exception, however, as the presence of Dave Weckl makes for one of the best GRP releases of the '90s. Khan's sound is still a bit weak, but his compositions are strong, as is the amazing percussion of Manolo Badrena. A longtime collaborator with Khan, Badrena seems to have every type of percussion ever made and uses them all effectively. Weckl thrives on the Latin rhythms and both players are complementary to each other. As with his other recordings, Khan's solos are not very interesting, and like Larry Coryell, he tries to play too fast. Despite this, they all seem to be having a great time. "Kamarica" is one of the happiest tunes here and contains some phenomenal soloing by Weckl. "Botero People" has a nice relaxed feel and a great bassline, proving that the tunes here are well written with a focus on rhythm rather than just improvisation. Although Badrena's singing is in Spanish, it is pleasant and an integral part of the music even if you don't know what he's saying. "Mama Chola" is the most intense piece here and features more great soloing by Weckl, who not only helps hold the band together, but actually manages to carry it for the majority of the session.

 I read the review from Bass Player magazine and bought the CD because it sounded interesting; all I knew about Steve Khan was his great guitar fills on Steely Dan's Gaucho album.  As soon as you start the CD you know you are in for a ride. I can only describe it as the feeling you would get walking through a dense rain forest - an undercurrent of beauty but you have no idea what to expect.  It's a *very* contemporary jazz album - high end musicians doing their stuff.  Throughout the whole CD there's a fantastic sense of interaction between the players, which is something I really liked.  The bass (Anthony Jackson) and drums (Dave Weckl) (and percussion) are exceptional, very solid playing which also provide a lot of the fluid motion and feel of the tracks - you won't get bored listening to these guys.  Steve Khan's guitar creates a floating spacious wall of sound (a great clean tone!).  It's great combination - the sound is both rhythmic and spacious.  The recording quality is absolutely faultless.  I can see that some people might not like it because the sound is very unique - for this reason it may take a couple of listens to get on the same wavelength.  All I can say is I listen to this CD an *LOT* - I'm actually surprised how much.  My favourites are: "Botero People", "Mama Chola", "Sise", "Silent Screen".

If I had to relinquish my entire music collection with the exception of one cd, Public Access would be the record that I keep! What Steve, Dave, Anthony and Manolo put down during this session is the epitome of what a recording should be. This cd has all the ingredients... clarity! The tuning of the instruments and the mix is flawless! I bought this initially because of Dave Weckl. In my opinion, his best recording ever is here! His precise, surgeon like prowess on drums has to be heard to be comprehended. Yet, his loose phrasing on Blue Zone 41 is perfect for that tune. Nobody but nobody could have put what need to be played down like Dave did here!
Anthony Jackson was the only logical choice here! His phrasing and command of his contrabass shows why he was and is the man for the low end!
I'm usually not one for vocalizing/percussion on a jazz record when you already have a drummer. But, what Manolo Badrena played was very hip and again, perfect for this session. I knew of him by way of Weather Report, but his vocals and his percussion added just the perfect blend of helping make this cd a must own!
Steve's sound and his playing open up a plethora of new things everytime I listen to this record. I wish I could have been in on the recording as it went down. With all due respect to any musician that Steve Khan has ever hired to do a recording... only these 4 gentleman on this cd could have played what the listener has pleasure of hearing here! A COMPLETE RECORDING!!

 According to Steve's web site this is his biggest selling CD.

Track listing:

1 Sisé(Khan, Jackson, Badrena, Weckl, Jordan)(9:06)
2 Blue Zone 41(Steve Khan)(4:45)
3 Kamarica(Khan, Jackson, Badrena, Weckl, Jordan)(8:50)
4 Silent Screen(Steve Khan)(7:06)
5 Mambosa(Steve Khan)(8:20)
6 Butane Elvin(Steve Khan(5:13)
7 Botero People(Khan, Jackson, Badrena, Weckl, Jordan)(7:06)
8 Dedicated to You(Sammy Cahn-Saul Chaplin)(6:22)
9 Mama Chóla(Khan, Jackson, Badrena, Weckl, Jordan)(10:07)

Personnel:

Steve Khan - Guitar
Anthony Jackson - Bass
Dave Weckl - Drums
Maholo Badrena - Percussion

7 comments:

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