Steve Khan's "Charanga Sí, Sí"
as played on the Caribbean Jazz Project's New Horizons CD
See Steve's hand-written Lead sheet
| Also composed for the Caribbean Jazz Project's recent CD, "NEW HORIZONS"(Concord Picante), this piece owes its inspiration to two fundamental sources. Through my work with timbalero Ralph Irizarry's group, Son Criollo, I was fortunate to play and
learn many 'classics' from the Salsa repertoire. And, I had the really
good fortune to play alongside my good friend, pianist Oscar Hernández too. One of the tunes I looked forward to playing every Thursday night
at New York City's Village/Soho restaurant, Gonzalez y Gonzalez, was José
Fajardo's "La Charanga." So, for my own composition, I sought to utilize
the dance feel and attitude of Fajardo's charanga and, to also find a
way to approximate Oscar Hernández' great feel on the piano and
lift it to the guitar. However, the origins of this piece came from a
far more unexpected source.
In truth this composition actually began as an improvised piece which appears on the 'red' CD of my book, "CONTEMPORARY CHORD KHANCEPTS." There, however, I was only trying to present an example of how one could use those concepts over a repeated iim7-V7(alt.)-Imaj-VI7(alt.) progression both in chords and lines. After having heard that track so many times, I began to believe that it had the possibility of being expanded into a full composition. All that was actually recorded long before I had ever heard or played "La Charanga." It's coincidence that the two became so connected. Let's take a look at the piece itself.
As the composition begins, sections [I], [I2], and [A] are related to the original improvisation, previously mentioned, from the book CD. Here, the chordal, rhythmic and melodic elements are all just refined a bit. [B] and [B2] show the influences of Oscar Hernández' piano groove and of Fajardo's charanga. Though I wasn't even aware of it at the time, letter [C], the moña, actually owes a great deal to Celia Cruz' classic "Cucala." Proving once again that to be completely 'original' is an extremely difficult task. Everything we hear, or have ever heard, can 'filter' through into something we improvise or compose.
The lyrics, to the 'coro'(the vocal refrain) which appears 9 bars into letter [B] each time, were written with some help from bassist John Benitez, and go something like this:
Charanga Cari, loco, loco estoy por tí
The lead sheet you are now viewing is a composite of the recorded version and the 'live' version which now exists. When we perform the tune live, the coro is always sung twice, 16 bars, though on the recording it was only sung once the 1st time. And here, you get to see the actual ending I came-up with when we were forced to invent one. It utilizes very traditional elements and draws from the rhythmic and melodic content of the cue figure which always appears 2 bars before [B].
The chordal passages which begin the piece were originally improvised for the book CD. So I had to take what was once improvised and give it form and structure so that Dave Samuels and I could perform it together. Though, in general, I don't like working with another chordal instrument, participating in the Caribbean Jazz Project has given Dave and I chance to work closely together and make the most out of the fact that, at times, vibes and electric guitar can sound very similar. As I remain a huge fan of Clare Fischer's electric keyboard voicing style, in bars 9-16 of [I2], Dave and I were able to add 'clusters' of harmony from the vibes in tribute to Clare.
The melody, which appears in [A] and [A2], features lines which are based upon my own 'pentatonic theories.' These are not necessarily unique to me as other players do similar things, but perhaps have a different manner in which to explain it all. Here, over the Cm7 chord, you will hear the usage of the G minor pentatonic(G, Bb, C, D, F). Over the F7(alt.) chord you will hear Ab minor pentatonic(Ab, Cb, Db, Eb, Gb). If you investigate those pitches carefully, you will see that you are producing ALL the altered tones(b5, #5, b9, #9). Over the Bbmaj7, you will see both the D minor pentatonic(D, F, G, A, C) and the A minor pentatonic(A, C, D, E, G) being employed. By using the minor pentatonic based upon the 7th degree of the major scale, you produce the tone of the #4 and introduce the sounds of the Lydian mode. For the G7(alt.) I used a Db dominant 7th pentatonic(Db, Eb, F, Ab, Cb). This pentatonic produces 3 of the 4 altered tones(b5, #5, and b9). Once one is acclimated to 'hearing' melodic sounds in this manner, it really becomes an angular contrast to the traditional configurations of bebop lines, or the modal approach to playing.
As I would always attempt to do, the three solo sections are connected to the melodic sections which have already appeared in the tune. The guitar solo section at [D] is based upon the simple changes which appear from [I] and extend all the way through [A2]. Both the vibes and flute solos are connected to the chord changes at [B]. In order to get back to the moña in [C], it must always be preceded by the D7 section of the solo and in a live performance the soloist must have the presence of mind to give a good cue so that the entire group can move forward to the next section as one.
KHAN'S KORNER was started with the hope of mostly sharing lead sheets and mini-scores to original compositions which cannot be found in books or elsewhere. However, we ended-up presenting lots of transcriptions first and the feedback has been tremendous. So, to be able to offer another tune of mine is something which I hope all our frequent visitors will enjoy and, of course, learn a little something from.