See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription
Steve Khan's acoustic guitar solo on:
"Bleeding Orchid"(Chick Corea)
When I decided to create an arrangement of "Bleeding Orchid" in mid-March, 2021 as a musical homage to Chick Corea, I really did not have a particular goal in mind, nor any kind of time-frame or self-imposed deadline. I just wanted to create something of lasting beauty to acknowledge all that Chick's playing and composing had meant to me since I first discovered him in the mid-'60s. By March of this year, his passing had happened over one month before, and had sent shockwaves throughout the international community of musicians, music fans, and music journalists. A few days after I had learned of his passing, I had written something personal at the TRIBUTES page for this very website, but I wanted to do something more. Whatever was to become of this arrangement, I did know that I would, of course, share it here via the site, and also simultaneously at Facebook. At the latter, I never really know what to expect, but I have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by the reaction from people, friends, colleagues and fans alike. it really surpassed any small hopes that I might have had. So, I would want to begin with a most heartfelt "Thank you!" to everyone who reacted with a Like/Love or who made the effort to offer a Comment.
When the arrangement was done and I commenced to assembling the musicians to bring it to life, for role on the Fender Rhodes I sought out the magnificent talents Otmaro Ruiz - someone whom I have known and whose playing I have admired for some 22 years now. This actually became our 1st opportunity to do something musical together. But it was actually Otmaro who first asked me, "Well Steve, what is it that you actually plan to do with this?" I don't know that I had much of an answer for that. I had to tell him that this was NOT for a new album, nothing of the sort - it was just something that I was driven to do - and simply wanted to create something we could all be proud of. To that, he shocked me by saying, "Listen, if you're going to do something like this and then post it/share it at Facebook you have to have a video!" That thought was horrifying to me. I hardly see myself as a video artist - certainly not at this latter stage of my life. No way! So, as I did not want to slam the door in Otmaro's face, I simply said, "Well, let me think about that and see if I can come-up with a workable concept." And so, the idea of present a number of beautiful images of orchids came to me and once I had gathered 15-20 of them, I could see that within the space of some of them, I could also create a TITLE PANEL, a CLOSING PANEL and a couple extra panels to be shown in the middle of the orchid display. This kind of Photoshop work has become pretty normalized for me and it wasn't long before everything was in order and ready to go.
The other great players to be involved would be: Rubén Rodríguez(Baby Bass); Bobby Allende(Conga & Bongó) and Jimmy Branly(Timbal). And Jimmy would end-up serving multiple roles including that he would master the recording, to be mixed by engineer, Malcolm Pollack and, it was Jimmy who created the video presentation from the images and panels that I had sized and sent to him ready to go. Again, the reaction from people to just the video has been really great and has lifted all of our spirits. Finally, I would never seek to do such a project without the monumental Post-Production talents and wisdom of my ever-reliable friend and constant colleague Rob Mounsey, who way beyond that was to supply some of his most beautiful orchestral touches. I'm so very grateful to all of these great musicians for what they gave to this piece of music.
As I sought to bring new touches to the arrangement of this piece of music, first recorded in 1971 on saxophonist Joe Farrell's "OUTBACK"(CTI) album, my first versions of the arrangement simply had a single solo section just going back and forth in 3/4 between Dm7(sus) and Fmaj9(6), one bar each, in a dreamlike manner, not too far removed from what Chick had presented back some 50 years ago. As time moved on, I simply felt that this was not quite enough, and I then designed two similar but separate solo sections:  for Otmaro's beautiful 'real' Fender Rhodes and  for my Martin MC-28 steel-string acoustic guitar. The solos would be sandwiched around an Interlude, Letter [C] that was inspired by something that Chick had improvised for a very brief moment during Joe Farrell's original solo @ roughly 2:28 of the original - it only lasts briefly. So, the solo sections, of 4 16-bar cycles would look something like this:
Dm7(sus) / / / | / / / / | Bbmaj7(9/6) / / / | / / / / |
Dm7(sus) / / / | / / / / | Bbmaj7(9/6) / / / | / / / / |
| G7(9sus) / / / | / / / / | Ebmaj7(9/6) / / / | / / / / :||
Each of the solos, Otmaro's and mine are coming out of a percussion break figure, in my case, I chose to play a 2-beat pick-up into the [1st Cycle]. That pick-up, as brief as it is, contains one of my favorite intervallic devices and that is something that I became accustomed to hearing when playing with both Randy and Michael Brecker, and that is the usage of the major 3rd, on a minor chord, as a neighboring tone. In this case you hear me playing a C#/Db while headed to Dm7. As the solo begins in earnest, with a bluesy phrase in bar 1, and that is immediately followed in bar 2 by a burst of harmonics à la the great Ralph Towner, who was one of my earliest friends and influences upon my arrival in New York in 1970. In general, when playing over a repetitive vamp of two chords of this nature: Dm7(sus) to Bbmaj7, one tried and true option would be to use the D minor pentatonic scale [D, F, G, A, C] over the both chords. This can also lead to using the D blues scale [D, F, G, Ab, A, C, D]. The phrase in bar 3 is born of a particular kind of chromaticism that touches upon interesting neighboring tones that might seem strange over Bbmaj7, like: Gb and C#/Db. Here, the minor 3rd, perhaps a blue note, over a maj7 chord. In bar 5, I allude to the Chick Corea's melody as a fragment, something that Otmaro also did early on during his solo. This a device that is as familiar to Jazz as any, that being, call upon melodic elements that have appeared before and use them as a springboard to other vistas. In bar 8, the first of a few quotes from Chick Corea's vast output, this one is transposed from his "500 Miles High." In bars 9-12, the chordal passage reminds me of similar sonorities that Chick has played throughout his amazing career and this influence has been with me for the longest time. Even though these voicings are, in essence, all parallel, if you only pay attention to the top voice, all of those notes are consonant. The key element, as it has always been since I began playing this way, is that I am internally 'singing' the top voice. These are NOT just a 'bunch of chords' - the melodic content is the same as if it had been a single-note line! In bar 13, the blues-based phrase over G7(sus) involves the doubled-note technique to create interesting sounds with the note D-natural, struck on both the G and B-strings - indicated by the (+) sign over the middle note. In bars 15-16, as we turn back around for the next cycle, the 16th-note syncopations begin to enter the solo. On beats 2-3 of bar 16, I am briefly alluding to using Bbm7 over that same Ebmaj7 chord but imagining it as Eb7 and putting a iim7 chord against it. The idea being to use the line to pull us back to Dm7. This kind of device is familiar to most Jazz players.
The [2nd Cycle] begins with yet another device, this time rhythmical that I learned from Chick when listening to his playing on Cal Tjader's album "SOUL BURST(Verve) from 1966. If you listen to the the tune "Curaçao" during Chick's solo @ 4:40 over this languid 6/8 feel, he begins to play hard Swing 4/4 against the 6/8. The first time I heard that, I had no idea that this was even possible. Like many moments on this album, it changed my life and my musical perspectives. And here, it shows up, in a way, during this solo. If you pay close attention to the linear configurations during the solo, all chromaticism and neighboring tones aside, look and hear how many of the notes are still related to D minor pentatonic. Though I haven't mentioned it yet, what is also so very important to me as a guitarist is my vibrato - one of our most expressive tools. That and some bent notes appear throughout this solo. Notice the end of the phrase in bar 4 as the F-natural is bent upwards without a really specific pitch destination. In bar 5, pay attention to the neighboring tones used, both chromatic upper(Bb) and lower(Ab) neighboring tones to the consonant A-natural appear. In bar 6, the doubled-note effect reappears, this time an A-natural is the note getting that treatment. At the end of bar 7, one again, even though the chord has become Bbmaj7, the blue-note of F-natural, gently bent upwards, appears again. Then, a nice breath - some space in bar 8. As we go into bar 9, we have another quote from one of my all-time favorite Chick Corea tunes, "Windows" which, of course, had to be manipulated to fit over these chord changes. In bar 13, as the chord changes to G7(sus), I am playing a very basic blues-oriented line with the target note being G-natural, the root. In the last 2 bars, over Ebmaj7(9), I am continuing with what is essentially G minor pentatonic [G, Bb, C, D, F] which connects us to the G blues scale [G, Bb, C, Db, D, F], notice how hard I attack the higher Bb from a half-step below.
A longer chordal passage begins the 3rd Cycle and echoes a bit of the passage from the 1st Cycle, but with more points-of-interest. In bar 2, notice that I am again applying parallel harmony to go from Bb down to A-natural. This kind of idea comes from all the great pianists of that period, the mid-'60s, but especially McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea. In bars 3-4, over Bbmaj7, with usage of triads, I am create beautiful sonorities like C/Bb and even D/Bb - these are all favorite sounds of mine. As the original sonority returns in bar 5, in bar 6 a variation of what I had played in bar 2 appears this time, as the top voice travels down from C-Bb-A - those notes are all harmonized in parallel using the same m7(sus) voicing. As the chordal passage draws to a close, our original voicing continues in parallel and concludes with the bluesy notes: A-C-D. In bar 10, to again employ the major 3rd(F#) as an upper neighbor to the more consonant tone of F-natural, I am putting to use a stretch fingering - one that my smaller hands can handle - and attacking it really hard. Over the Bbmaj7 in bar 11, once again, I am playing with the area between F# and F-natural. As we arrive at bar 13 and the chord change to G7(9b5), a variation of that same stretch fingering idea appears that enables me to accommodate the b5(Db). In bar 14, notice the subtle bent note from F up to G. This 3rd Cycle concludes with a reference to another Chick Corea composition from the mid-'60s, this time it's "Litha." If you know the tune, see if you recognize it here.
The 4th Cycle begins with a pair of snapped notes with the fingernail of my index finger - D-C-D! I guess it was a response to the "Litha" quote? However, the "Litha" reference continues in bars 1 & 2. In bar 4, my usage of the sounds of D/Bb or, modally speaking, Bb Lydian Augmented [Bb, C, D, E, F#, G, A]. When bar 5 arrives and the Dm7 chord, once again, you are hearing my usage of the chromatic upper neighbor(Eb) to the root of D-natural. In bars 6-7, the blues return with some bent notes and more vibrato. I especially like the last 2 notes of bar 7 where my high D-natural is gently bent upwards never really quite reaching F-natural but the ear wants to hear it as arriving there. In bar 8, I am using a line configuration to pull me back to Dm7 by implying Eb7(9) with some chromaticism. Notice how the last note, Bb pulls down chromatically to the more consonant A-natural. In bars 9-10 the rhythmic essence of the "Litha" phrase is still there with the intervals ascending in 4ths, when the Bbmaj7 chord arrives we find the first usage of A minor pentatonic [A, C, D, E, G] over Bbmaj7, and this is the minor pentatonic that gives us the #4(E-natural) over a maj7 chord. That very same E-natural provides a most smooth transition to the G7(sus) chord in bar 13 to begin to close out the solo, which actually ends in bar 14, with a line configuration that employs G minor pentatonic over Ebmaj7. The structuring of this solo cycle had to be different to accommodate another percussion break as we had to return to the reprise of Corea's beautiful melody.
Since the official launching of the music and video on Friday, April 16th, 2021, I have received a numbers questions about this piece of music and mostly about my Martin MC-28 steel-string acoustic. Though I share all of this information at the EQUIPMENT page at this site, I will go through the specifics at this page as well. The strings that I use are a set of Darco New Yorker Extra Light with gauges that run from .010 to .047. In the normal set of strings, the G-string is wound and .023. But, wimp that I am, that's too tough for me, I can't use my vibrato with a string that's that thick. And so, decades ago, I began using a plain G-string, specifically and Ernie Ball .017 and that's what gives my sound that extra little 'twang'! One person asked if I was using some kind of special tuning, and I answered him thusly: For the special harmonics splashes à la my old pal Ralph Towner, I did re-tune the guitar to a couple of different tunings! One was E-B-E-F#-B-E and another was: D-A-D-G-C-D. Yes, it is a bit of trickery, but the end result, at least for me, was all that mattered. And there you have it.
This journey began when I reconnected with Chick Corea's "Bleeding Orchid" during the process of writing my personal tribute to Chick. Of course, it only appeared on Joe Farrell's 1971 album "OUTBACK"(CTI) which had also featured: Buster Williams(Ac. Bass); Elvin Jones(Drums); and Airto Moreira(Percussion). It is a bit hard to imagine that this very beautiful piece of music would never get reinterpreted by Chick nor anyone else until now. That's 50 years with this composition sitting around doing nothing. It doesn't necessarily lend itself easily to most of the rhythmic content of what we associate with Jazz. The many Spanish-style ornaments that decorate the melody give the piece so much character that it can become hard to hear it or envision it in another way. Could one hear it as a traditional ballad with brushes? A Jazz waltz? A medium bounce with a sense of swing to it? A double-time swing tune? I don't know, but I would answer "No!" to all of those options. You have rhythmic elements in the Intro of the original where Elvin is almost playing a kind of funereal march on his snare drum and Airto is decorating that with castanets. These elements set-up the mood and attitude of the piece. It was not that great a leap for me to envision the tune as being played in a Latin bolero - just in 3/4 - and that, in and of itself is unusual enough, but the rhythm of the maracas and the paila on the timbal transport the music to a perfect and beautiful place. That's what we tried to do.
Since the music and the accompanying video were launch on April 16th, 2021, the reaction has been far greater than I had ever expected. In recent days, that even extended to some requests from very significant Jazz radio people here in the USA who wanted to present the music to their listeners. Something like this is very, very rare and does require some thinking/programming that is, to me, way outside of the box! The reason is rather obvious, why present something to your listeners when they can't go anywhere to buy it? That would be frustrating for them, right? On the hand, why not allow them to hear something that's out there, that exists and in doing so, allow your listeners to know about it? That is where innovative thinking is required. For me, there was never a doubt about my choice for a second. Of course, I gave my permission for these great Jazz radio directors to play our interpretation of "Bleeding Orchid" however and whenever they liked. I sent them all a makeshift CD single cover that I had created, and which appears above, so that there would be some kind of graphic for their playlist. And, of course, I sent them the full credits panel so that the DJ could always tell his/her audience just who they were listening to. I can't thank all of these brave radio souls enough for taking a chance on this piece of music and the performance.
As it is now May of 2021, I am finally hopeful that, perhaps, we, most of the world over, are finally seeing a slow path to the return of a new form of normal! It's a bit hard to say what that's going to look like, things still don't feel exactly normal here in New York City - that's for certain. But, I do know that there is, at least for many of us, a renewed sense of general calm and far, far less day-to-day stress from having now survived, somehow, 4 years of a government that was a whisker away from becoming an autocracy. I think that we have been warned, and now we know, "IT CAN HAPPEN HERE!" So, let's take care of one another, of our country, and once again, be a participant with the rest of the world - or most of it - at making everything a little better globally - step-by-step, and day-by-day. Wishing anyone and everyone who might be reading this continued GOOD HEALTH and SAFETY - and a sense of inner PEACE!