A veteran of over 20 albums stretching back to the 1970’s, Steve Khan has built a nice résumé as a respected jazz guitarist, and his latest effort, Borrowed Time, follows up on his successful release from 2006, The Green Field. His newest also continues a collaboration with some of the same talented musicians, including bassist John Patitucci, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and some other gifted percussionists, including Manolo Badrena (who also contributes vocally).
In recent years, Khan (who is the son of legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn) has become most often tagged as a fusion artist, but during the arc of his career he’s ventured into just about every variation of jazz available. His past musical relationships include working with everybody from Buddy Rich and Maynard Ferguson to Billy Joel and Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen.
Although he’s well-known and respected on the American jazz scene, he’s even more popular in the Far East, especially Japan, which is where this album actually debuted. As further evidence of his popularity in that country, he’s also on their Jazztime magazine’s list of all-time greatest jazz guitarists. One thing is certain — this album will not diminish Khan’s reputation or his appeal to his fans, because it’s a winner.
He’s gathered a lot of pros to fill out his talented group, and he generously gives them plenty of opportunities to show their stuff. In addition to those already mentioned, guest artists include Rob Mounsey on keyboards, Randy Brecker on flugelhorn, and several more talented Latin percussionists, including Marc Quinones and Bobby Allendre. They make sure the sounds of timbal, conga, maracas, tamboura, guiro, and bongo echo throughout many of the pieces here.
The cuts on the album show a degree of variety and originality that should please every jazz fan. Jumping right into the fun is the first tune, “I Mean You”, written by Thelonius Monk, a traditional jazz piece that’s here given new life via a captivating Latin beat. It’s followed by “Mr. and Mrs. People”, an Ornette Coleman composition that’s not often encountered, but its inclusion shows Khan’s respect for past masters.
Khan’s own composing talents are on view with the lush “Face Value”, which features a long, amazing flugelhorn solo from guest artist Randy Brecker, and “El Faquir”, the longest cut on the album (13+ minutes) that combines Latin-jazz with Eastern sounds and some cutting-edge improvisations. Guest artist Bob Mintzer shows up and demonstrates his talent on the bass clarinet and Patitucci’s brooding bass is especially notable in this unusual piece.
Included on the album are a couple of McCoy Tyner compositions; “Blues for Ball” and “Hymn Song”, both given a fairly straight treatment, with the percussion solos in the latter tune a special treat. Khan also pays his dues to his father’s generation by including dad’s “You’re My Girl”, and the Rogers and Hart tune, “Have You Met Miss Jones?”, which is modernized by adding an infectious salsa beat.
Steve Khan – Borrowed Time — recommended.