Friday, January 1, 2016

Steve Khan - 1977 "Tightrope"

Steve Khan and the Brecker Brothers coming together. With folks like this, and Steve Gadd and Bob James too, you have a formula for success.
What do you get when you have a superb rhythm section, saucy keyboards, a hot and brassy mini-horn section, and one very tasteful jazz- and chops-laden guitarist all come together with some jazz and some fusion in mind? You have the magic of
Khan's compositions are smooth yet lively enough not to bore. His unique drive, and pristine flourish and tone on his modded Fender Telecaster, and even his deft acoustic work, all come together to make a very satisfying blend of sexy jazz and funked-up, be bop fusion. Yet there is that special touch that only Steve Khan can add that makes his releases a signature sound on each outing. If you listen closely, you will hear Larry Coryell-ian riffs and stylings (as Khan and Coryell used to jam together, and did record together).
Much ado is made about Mike Stern's guitar work in the '80s and '90s, but one listen to Khan and you will immediately hear who his big inspiration was. Next time you pick up an old Stern release you stand a good chance of seeing the words "produced by Steve Khan."

You can totally tell that this is a Bob James production. It's not bad at all, and don't get me wrong, James has done some great stuff. But you can also see why Steve Khan made no more Tappan Zee records, even though staying there probably would have guaranteed him more commercial success.

Being a Bob James production, it's far more dated than any other Khan record. It's also got a tighter, more pop-oriented sound, complete with goofy melodies and disco beats. Khan's signature guitar sound is there, but it seems to be less center-stage than his other recordings.

With the support of Bobby Colomby, I was signed by Bob James to Columbia Records in 1977. It was a tremendous thrill to be on the same label with some of the greatest jazz and jazz-fusion artists, one only has to begin with the name, Miles Davis. At the time, I suppose I felt it was my 'mission' to somehow maintain the original sound and line-up of the Brecker Bros. Band, only featuring my guitar a little more. Of the great jazz-fusion groups from the early '70s (Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever), the Brecker Bros. Band was the only group to feature a 'mini' horn section, and what a horn section it was: Randy Brecker(Trumpet); Michael Brecker(Tenor Sax); and David Sanborn(Alto Sax). Along with Randy's brilliant, unique and underappreciated compositions, this horn trio created a style, sound, and approach to phrasing which has influenced all genres of music and players and arrangers from all over the world. When Dave left the band to pursue his solo career, Michael and Randy decided to continue without a third horn. On "TIGHTROPE," the horn section is featured on the title track as well as the Randy Brecker original, "The Big Ones," and their playing together remains a highlight for me. During these years(through '79), I was still playing my beefed-up, customized Fender Telecaster and probably only using a Fender Super Reverb. Other highlights for me include: the drumming of Steve Gadd(especially on "Tightrope"); Michael Brecker's harmonizer-colored solo(his idea and his setting) on "Some Punk Funk"; Dave Sanborn's solos on "The Big Ones" & "Darlin' Darlin' Baby"; and the support of Don Grolnick, Bob James, and Will Lee throughout. On each of the three Columbia recordings, I featured one acoustic steel-string solo amidst an electric texture, the first of these features was on the tune, "Star Chamber." "TIGHTROPE" is the best selling recording I've ever made, and is probably directly attributable to the inclusion of the Gamble & Huff aforementioned tune, "Darlin' Darlin' Baby," originally recorded by the O'Jays. Bob James wrote the gorgeous arrangement the morning of the session. This recording also marked the beginning of my friendship and link via album cover artwork to Jean-Michel Folon, all thanks to Paula Scher.

[1] Some Punk Funk(Steve Khan)(5:20)
[2] Darlin' Darlin' Baby(Sweet Tender Love)(Gamble-Huff)(6:29)
[3] Tightrope(Steve Khan)(5:44)
[4] The Big Ones(Randy Brecker)(6:02)
[5] Star Chamber(Steve Khan)(5:19)
[6] Soft Summer Breeze(Spencer-Heywood)(5:00)
[7] Where Shadows Meet(Steve Khan)(3:40)

Personnel:

Steve Khan - guitar & twelve-string electric guitar
Michael Brecker - tenor saxophone
Dave Sanborn - alto saxophone
Randy Brecker - trumpet
Bob James - Fender Rhodes & synthesizer
Don Grolnick - Fender Rhodes & acoustic piano (1), clavinet
David Spinozza, Jeff Mironov - guitar
Will Lee - bass
Steve Gadd - drums
Ralph MacDonald - percussion

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