See Steve's Hand-Written Lead Sheet

Steve Khan's lead sheet:
"Casa Loco"(Khan-Jackson-Jordan-Badrena)

    Normally, I save the discussion of titles for the end of these essays, but here is a case where I must try and explain myself, defend myself, because it's too embarrassing if I don't! When we wrote and recorded "Casa Loco" in 1983, I really knew next to nothing about speaking Spanish. And my 'next to nothing' included ignorance about the fact that adjectives can be, have to be, masculine or feminine. So, when I was trying to think of a title for this piece, realizing that it was created in Steve Jordan's "crazy house" of music, where we rehearsed, I simply took the Spanish words for crazy(loco) and house(casa), which I knew, and slapped them together. Of course, I had NO idea that it should have been "Casa Loca." And worse than this, Manolo Badrena never said a damn thing to me!!! Later he told me, "Oh, I thought you knew what you were doing!" And so, it wasn't until sometime during 1984 when I began to know and fall in love with my future wife(now ex-wife), Nancy, who was born and raised in Santurce, Puerto Rico, I learned quickly from her that "CASA LOCO," as a title, was totally incorrect Spanish!!! Wow! I was stunned, and felt incredibly stupid!!! So, for all my Spanish speaking friends who visit the site regularly, please accept this belated apology for butchering your beautiful language. ¡Lo siento mucho!
     This composition, for us as a group, was really to define what our 'potential' future could be, because it really does incorporate elements which are unique to each of us. And it was this spirit of cooperation between Anthony Jackson; Steve Jordan; Manolo Badrena and me that provided so much hope. Here we mix elements of Latin music, R&B, Rock, Jazz, World Music, and probably other things I can't think of in this moment. The piece is marked by the fact that recording a single performance of it took some 12:36 and included one of the great, great drum solos ever recorded. It also was the first time we had recorded in the studio with Anthony's 6-string contrabass guitar. He used this tune to explore some of the instrument's chordal possibilities, which come into full play in letter [A]. Initially, with my guitar, I showed Anthony what I felt the harmony should be underneath the guitar melody I had composed, and soon he showed me that he could not only play the bass part, but he could fill in the 'guide tone' oriented harmony for the movement from B7(sus) to F#7(sus)-F#7. And, he even went so far as to supply his own inventive turnaround in the 2nd ending.
     The [I]and [I2] sections I composed knowing that the bass line was really going to serve as a small melodic unit and that Anthony would play it with character and his special sense of dynamics and mystery. Again, it simply functions as an extended prelude, a 'mood-setter' if you will, to the change of attitude which arrives with [A]. In addition to Anthony's chordal work, this section is marked by the fact that it was one of the few times that I played with overdrive on an Eyewitness recording. This was done with the help of an Ibanez Tube Screamer which obviously gives you a 'mean' tone without being overly distorted.
     When we finally arrive at [B] and the real tumbao begins, for me this is really one of those unforgettable moments we shared as group in the process of composing this piece. Writing as a group affords you the chance of drawing from everyone's background and experience and, under the right circumstances, can help to create something truly unique and memorable. I recall that, at this point in the process, I realized that the top notes of the chords which I was playing were not going to be enough to stand alone as a melody and so, for the first time, I asked Manolo if he could possibly sing something over this guajeo y tumbao. And, somehow he came-up with the miraculous little coro which he dictated to me as follows:

Iya mi élé oro
Iya mi élé oro

    Now, those of you, who have met or seen Manolo, will understand that anything he might tell me could be slightly 'off' or suspect. But, let's just take him at his word for now when he says that this coro is his own adaptation of a Yoruba chant. The one thing which is certain is that his impassioned vocal makes you feel something, and that is the most one could ask for!
     For the last 4 bars of this section, the 1st ending, Manolo marks the top voice of each of my chords by singing them in 'vocalese' which again shows what a truly great singer he can be when his energies are focused correctly. Also, pay attention to how Anthony's bass notes have been altered to perfectly bring out the change of harmony. The entire section repeats, but, on the repeat, we still take the 1st ending and continue on to [C] which changes the harmony again and Anthony's bass line reflects those new sonorities perfectly. It's lucky for us that the 'clave police' were not close by, or we would have been busted for breaking the clave with a 2/4 bar, just before the return to [I]. Following this, there are restatements of [A], before taking the 1st Coda and moving on to [D], which signals the guitar solo.CASA LOCO - Steve Khan
     The guitar improvisation is again more a product of a collective 'group think' process, rather than just viewing myself, in the traditional way, as a 'soloist with support.' When making music with Anthony, Steve, and Manolo, I learned to never view myself in that way! We were simply involved in an improvised 'conversation.' Of special note is the complete freedom with which Anthony and Steve play during the improvisation, and yet there's always the sense of tumbao, at least to these ears. They truly stretched the boundaries of just what is possible. On a cue, we move ahead to [D2] which harmonically resembles the 2nd half of what you heard at [B]. The cue out is when I finally play a composed chordal passage at [E] which brings us to [E2]. This is essentially just a reprise of [C], and Manolo's vocal chanting.
     Suddenly, we are at the beginning of Steve Jordan's tremendous drum solo where the sense of '1', and where it is, has been blurred beyond recognition, because none of us are really playing on the downbeats. At its conclusion, Steve smoothly leads us to the 2nd ending and a series of long, held chords which brings us back to[I] again. However, this time there is a bit of a surprise and instead of playing the [A] section again, we jump ahead to [B] and Manolo's vocals, but this time the coro is only 8 bars long before moving ahead. Again, if memory serves, I believe that this came about because of a group discussion about what to do. Often times, Steve Jordan had great ideas about form and structure and I grew to trust his instincts in this area greatly.
     Finally, we have arrived at [G] and nearly the end of this long odyssey of a tune. The concept here is to have a gradual crescendo to the climactic moment. I remember the first time Anthony launched into his syncopated 16th-note subdivision groove at [G2] during the composing process and it lost me completely. Of course, Steve Jordan went right with him, as they were always rhythmically attuned and joined 'at the hip.' It seemed like it took me forever to understand what the hell it was that they were doing. This is one case where once I had written it all out, suddenly it made complete and total sense to me. It is, to me, totally brilliant what they did. And while Steve's foot catches much of what Anthony is doing, his 'snap, crackle and pop snare drum' on the and-of-4 and the and-of-2 catches my guitar off-beats as well. Moments like this demonstrate why this recording, this track, is held in such reverence by bassists and drummers from all over the world. But I am just like them, and can only stand in awe of the brilliance of Anthony Jackson and Steve Jordan. I remain honored to have been a part of this recording!!!
    Over the many years that have passed since 1983, I have been asked about the sound that I used on the "CASA LOCO" album in general. The fundamental guiding principle for me, after the Columbia years(1977-1979) was to go back to a more pure and simple guitar sound. In essence, that was to be a Gibson ES-335 guitar played direct into an amp, and with a little reverb for treatment. Of course, as the music developed from 1981 forward, I had to be more flexible about that, and a Fender Stratocaster appeared on some tunes as well. As the music for this particular album evolved, it just seemed that, once again, certain sections were going to need a little something extra, and so, on this album, that sound was produced with the help of the Ibanez Chorus(CS9). This particular pedal was a bit noisy sounding, not ideal for a high-quality audio recording, but it was in stereo, and was played through two Roland JC-120s. From 1990 to the present, the major sonic difference is that then I had graduated to what became my true voice, where effects are concerned, the Ibanez Digital Chorus/Flanger(DCF-10) which I written about extensively at the EQUIPMENT page here.
     The lead sheet you are now viewing was just re-done recently. As has been my custom, prior to posting things at KHAN'S KORNER, I review the music to make sure that it's going to correspond with what you are hearing. And, what I often forget is that the original lead sheets underwent changes at the recordings and, at times, the forms do not match. In this case, I felt that, because of the complexities in the form of this particular 'epic', it would be best to just re-write everything and make the structural changes, which would, in the end, make it easier to read and follow. It becomes necessary, because sections like [I2] only appear once in the piece, but [I] appears several times. And, to make this all work without becoming 10 pages long, I needed to go as far as to employ a "triple coda" and, a D.D.S. too! So, be on the lookout for those spots!
     It is a special joy for me to share this particular lead sheet with everyone because of the high volume of e-mails I receive regarding this particular CD. But, more than this, I know that the compositional process for this particular tune opened me up to a new world of possibilities, and I will be forever grateful to Anthony, Steve, and Manolo for showing me the path. I am going to hope that sharing the music with everyone here will contribute something positive to your own writing and performing ideas. Here we are, all of a sudden it is June again, summer is upon us and let us hope that we can all look forward to the most positive things in life.
     On a side note, just prior to the last concert at Domicil in Dortmund, Germany on May 31st, '03, with Terri Lyne Carrington; Greg Osby and Jimmy Haslip, I was informed by club owner, Fritz Reige that WDR DJ Michael Rüsenberg had broadcast a small 3-song tribute to the 20th anniversary of the release of "CASA LOCO," which was a tremendous thrill and honor for me, not to mention a great surprise. That 20 years have come and gone, and that this music endures and is remembered, is truly wonderful. Thank you Michael and Fritz for this special moment!

[Photo of: Steve Jordan on the October 2005 cover of MODERN DRUMMER
by Kate Simon]

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