Steve Khan's "The Blue Shadow"
After having recorded "EYEWITNESS" during
November of '81, the next step seemed obvious, "Let's go to Japan and play
some of this music!" Our advisor/promoter, George Braun, told us
that the only way people would really believe that this was, in fact, a
'real' group was if there was a 2nd recording, that, at the very least!
And so, arrangements were quickly worked out with the famous Pit Inn
of Roppongi, Tokyo for a series of concerts in early May of '82. But, more
than this, we had locked ourselves into a 'live' recording, for Trio Records,
of our very first time playing in front of people!!! ¡Susto!
¡Qué miedo! How crazy was that? Oh well, too late to turn
As the group only had the five tunes from the first
recording, I suddenly was 'under the gun' to compose new pieces, not only
for the performances, but to record. So, this month's selection at KORNER
2 is from the "MODERN TIMES" recording, and represents yet another
twist on a blues. The harmonic 'model' for "The Blue Shadow" comes
from the changes used by Wes Montgomery in his interpretation of
Miles Davis' "Freddie the Freeloader." Just take a look at
bars 9-12 of the solo changes.
When I brought the tune in to rehearsals, it was
a simple 12-bar blues, but after playing it a few times, we all sensed
that it needed an adjustment. We decided to let the chord hang over a little
longer in bar 8, which suddenly transformed it into a 13-bar blues. As
a composer, you learn to just go with what seems to feel right more than
stubbornly sticking to what has been written on the manuscript paper, as
if it were written "in stone."
It was during rehearsals that Anthony Jackson
and Steve Jordan asked if they could 'set the tune up' by engaging
in a 'free dialogue.' This [I] section reappears briefly after the
guitar improvisation, and just before the final statement of the melody,
becoming a special part of our arrangement. This 'dialogue' demonstrates such a high level of 'ESP' between these two brilliant players that it is worshipped by virtually all bassists and drummers. And deservedly so!!! When I originally wrote this
piece, I was actually thinking about making an organ trio recording, and
the chords which are now played at [A1] were actually supposed to
have been played underneath the melody, which finally appears at [A2].
What always made our group's music so successful was the usage of 'drama'
by accentuating the dynamics. So, [A1] is a great example of that
as there is a very gradual crescendo, which grows up to the accent on the
and-of-four of bar 7, and the unison figures in bar 8.
One interesting, but very small, linear sideline I'd like to address is what occurs in bar 4 of both [A] and [A2]. For those of you who now have my new book, "PENTATONIC KHANCEPTS" this will be an excellent example. As we've noted during prior analyses at KHAN'S KORNER, bar 4 of any blues is always potentially unique moment, and here, in the lines of the melody, I have observed, in a very pentatonic fashion two possibilities:  being the b5 substitute of Bm7-E7 and employing the B minor pentatonic(B, D, E, F#, A) and then;  in the 2nd-half of the bar, as if the chord was actually a Bb7(alt.), I have used the Db minor pentatonic(Db, Fb/E, Gb, Ab, Cb/B). This pentatonic, built upon the degree of the minor 3rd(from Bb) gives me all of the altered notes(b9, #9, b5, #5). I will hope that this adds something special to what you can take away from studying this tune.
When [A2] arrives, we are playing at a slightly
more forceful dynamic than we did during [A1]. There's no question
that Steve Jordan is in complete control with his powerful drumming and
his beautiful execution of the various figures, especially at bars 4 and
8. On the repeat of [A2], the band opens up to full throttle and
melody goes up the octave which adds to the sense of drama. And, of course,
at this point, Steve Jordan is completely bashing like a maniac!
During the live Pit Inn recording, which was originally
titled "MODERN TIMES," I felt something strange going on during
the guitar solo section, but I just continued with what was happening.
Later, Anthony told me that he had decided to ignore the solo changes and
just play a 'free blues' form of his own making based upon what he was
hearing. It was quite a curve to be thrown, but I really like the results.
It makes my improvisation sound a lot more 'outside' than it actually really
is or was!
On any number of nights, when this tune was played,
Manolo Badrena would often choose to 'disappear.' Most of the time,
as I was playing with my eyes closed, I wasn't paying attention, but usually
at some point during the performance I would ask myself the following question,
"Why does it feel like we are suddenly a trio?" Then I would look
around and see NO ONE behind the battery of percussion. On one particular
night at the Pit Inn, Manolo and his soon-to-be wife(at least for awhile,
before becoming an ex-wife) Sashiko(Sasha) decided to sit together,
in the audience, wearing matching wild sunglasses, and just listening to
Anthony, Steve and I playing this tune. It was almost impossible to play
with a straight face once I saw the two of them. I think that this was
taking his concept of 'less is more' a little bit too far!!! However, he
does perform on this track, just in a mostly invisible manner until about
the 6:54 mark when he unleashes one his totally unique electronic sounds
as we go into double-time, and then adding congas here and there.
On a cue, from me, the solo section comes to a close
as we play [A1] once before a shorter reprise of the bass and drum
dialogue at [I2]. From this point, we repeat the entire form again: [A1]-[A2]-[A2](up the octave), and then taking the Coda to the [Tag] for the ending.
Because this particular recording features four
tunes, each between 10-11 minutes in length, only the label Passport
Jazz was interested in picking it up because they needed 'product'
to launch the label. With track timings of that length, it obviously means
that there will not be huge amounts of radio airplay. So, it was just a
matter of good timing for me. Otherwise, it might have never been released
in the United States. However, here we had to change the title to "BLADES"
because Mike Mainieri's Steps Ahead had just released a recording
titled, "MODERN TIMES"(Elektra Musician) as well. In one of my all-time
most stupid moves, I allowed my then lawyer to talk me into 'retaining'
the CD rights so that I could shop those to another label. What a moron
I was for listening to that sage counsel. If no label wanted it as an LP,
why would they want it as a CD? I should have simply let Passport Jazz
have the entire package. Oh well, live and learn.
Where the guitar sound is concerned on this particular
recording, it is seriously marred by my own sloppy attention to details
during the soundcheck!! At that time, I was playing 'live' with a Dynacord
digital reverb unit and, of course, when you do this while making a 'live'
recording, it simply means that everything is going to tape, and
you will no longer have any control over that element of your sound when
it comes time to mix. So, I would have been wiser to simply have had the
house soundman add some reverb in the P.A., and then mix the record in
the proper way. I also was unaware, until we listened to playbacks, that
one of my two Roland JC-120 amps was breaking-up and would be unusable
in the mixes. So, for me, from a sonic standpoint, this recording is a
disaster!!! But, because of the strength and brilliance of Anthony Jackson
and Steve Jordan, it seems to be revered by many bassists and drummers.
Lucky for me!!!!
As was fairly typical for this period of time, the
title comes from yet another Jean-Michel Folon watercolor which
I found to be especially beautiful. As we arrive ever closer to the Holiday
Season with Thanksgiving coming first for us in the States, please
take a moment and give thanks for the gift of wonderful friendships which
exist all around us. Without the love, compassion, and understanding of
our dear friends, how lost we all might be. Please know that from our little
corner of the internet, we are wishing everyone the joys of the season
and only the best of everything for the coming year.