- "BACKLOG" was finally released on February 24th, 2017 in the USA. However, the album had already been released in Japan(55 Records) on September 21st, 2016, and, in Germany/Europe(ESC Records) on October 7th, 2016. Now, the first reviews have been published.
- When it was released in Japan, "JAZZ LIFE" magazine wrote this of the album: "Cutting edge Latin jazz album with a completely new approach to wonderful compositions. Steve Khan's unique voice creates exciting music no matter what the material might be, or the group with which he plays. That is what makes him so great!" Just prior to the release JAZZ LIFE's Yujin Naito conducted an in depth INTERVIEW with Steve, specifically about the new album, so make some time to read it.
In the preface to his review in Germany's JAZZ PODIUM, Michael Stürm wrote, "If we had to name one player, who has carried on the technique of the great innovators like: Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall or Wes Montgomery into the Jazz-Rock era in the most consistent way, it's Steve Khan!" Hopefully, this is a good sign for things to come. But, let's wait and see.
- But, before we get the reviews, please make certain that you read STEVE'S PERSONAL REFLECTIONS on all the tunes from "BACKLOG."
- Offered by the great AllAboutJazz.com site, I was thrilled to read this great REVIEW of "BACKLOG" written by Mark F. Turner.
Steve Khan's love affair with Latin music germinated in the 1980's with his stellar Eyewitness recordings, and continued to develop in a number of releases including 2011's Parting Shot and 2014's Subtext both on Tone Center Records. Backlog is third in this series and represents some of the esteemed jazz guitarist's finest work to date.
A consummate musician, Khan's credits include heavy work in the '70s and '80s with pop and jazz icons Donald Fagen, Michael Brecker, and Joe Zawinul, yet it's leading his own ensembles and recordings where his art truly illuminates. First and foremost, Khan has created a recognizable and singular style. It's not just impeccable chops, there's that tonal richness, fluent weaving of imaginative solos with chordal voicings and the way he phrases every note into a distinctive language.
These attributes have not diminished and are demonstrated here with a top flight ensemble and special guests. Backlog's ten tracks consist of a diverse set of jazz covers, standards, and a sweet rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Go Home." Each piece is "Khan-ceptualized" within a Latin jazz framework proving that it is one thing to speak your own musical language but quite another to articulate another composer's work into that vernacular.
The band executes impeccably starting with a spicy reading of Thelonious Monk's "Criss Cross" as the rhythmic core of bassist Rubén Rodríguez and drummer Mark Walker ignite Marc Quiñones and Bobby Allende's percussion march. Next comes saxophonist Greg Osby's "Concepticus in C" where elements of M-Base encounter a persuasive Cha-cha-cha rhythm. Memorable guest spots include a dazzling trumpet solo from Randy Brecker ("Latin Genetics"); sweeping vibes from Mike Mainieri ("Head Start") and the piercing tenor saxophone of Bob Mintzer ("Invisible") as well as gorgeous keyboards and orchestrations by Rob Mounsey on a number of tracks.
Technical abilities notwithstanding, Khan's music flows with melodies and rhythms you can dance to, while also appreciating its exemplary musicianship whether jamming to bomba and plena rhythms or floating blissfully in composer Johnny Mandel's lovely ballad "Emily." One of the many highlights is Stevie Wonder's aforementioned "Go Home" where Khan's fuzz toned solo burns, and even quotes Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" as the music fades.
With a touch of nostalgia pianist Andrew Hill's "Catta" concludes the matter. The classic was featured on recordings by vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and pianist Don Grolnick; luminaries who left indelible imprints on jazz. Khan reinvents the composition and gives it new life while infusing Eyewitness' eclecticism and rapturous voice work from Brazilian singer Tatiana Parra.
It's been said that producing a recording is like giving birth—a strenuous, lengthy and painful process. But sometimes that birth can result in a thing of beauty and vivacity as heard in Steve Khan's resplendent Backlog. - Mark F. Turner
- The first of the critiques that came in was a most thorough REVIEW of the new CD, by allaboutjazz.com's James Nadal. As always, the support from this great website and Jazz resource is so greatly appreciated.
In what could best be described as an enduring exploration, Steve Khan has undertaken the role of expanding and redefining the role of the guitar in the hybrid genre of Latin Jazz. Backlog continues with the concept established as far back as 2005 on The Green Field, in the transformation of straight ahead jazz compositions into unique Khan improvisations drawing deep from the Afro-Cuban tradition.
The percussion duo of Marc Quiñones and Bobby Allende have been an essential part of his sound since 2007, and bassist Rubén Rodríguez complements the ensemble with a solid tumbao bass foundation. Drummer Mark Walker rounds out the rhythm section, a dynamic propulsion machine which allows Khan to perform his magic.
The defining clave opens the Thelonious Monk tune, "Criss Cross," Rodríguez on the baby bass establishing the bands melodic direction, Khan weaving his phrases around the percussive layers. "Concepticus In C," by Greg Osby, is reworked in a classic cha-cha-cha mode and demonstrates Khan's affinity for Caribbean dance music in this interpretation. As is customary in Khan's recordings, Ornette Coleman is a major influence and contributor, and his "Latin Genetics" is given a Puerto Rican plena treatment, featuring Randy Brecker on trumpet, playing with a genuine street carnival approach.
It's no secret that the prolific composer Sammy Cahn was Khan's father, and "Our Town," is a personal tribute, complete with lush orchestration courtesy of Rob Mounsey, who does a commendable job on the keyboards. Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson was another musician who delved into the Afro-Cuban rhythms, and Khan covers him on two tunes, "Head Start," with Mike Mainieri on vibes, and "Rojo," where Khan switches to a steel string acoustic for a more relaxed montuno voicing.
Ornette is revisited on "Invisible," bringing Bob Mintzer in on tenor sax to lay out an esoteric blues, against the exotic backdrop. Khan melodically depicts a floating sensation in "Emily," with the understated rhythm serving as a buoyant cloud for his musings. The ancestral Oriza rhythms are utilized on "Go Home," plucked from Stevie Wonder's 1985 release "In Square Circle." The song is driven by Marc Quiñones' deft work with the intricate double bell pattern, and Khan goes into soul/funk territory with high energy and volume. The Brazilian tinge, courtesy of vocalist Tatiana Parra, appears on the remake of "Catta," by Andrew Hill. This song closes the set with the unmistakable sense of romance which is so dominant in Latin music, though sometimes forgotten by the dominant rhythmic undulation.
With Backlog, Khan rounds out the mesmerizing trilogy encompassing Parting Shot (2011) and Subtext (2014) which were recorded under the pressure of a mysterious medical affliction. Khan's music continues to evolve and his quest to take the guitar into an uncharted trajectory has bestowed him with a singular style. No one plays or sounds like Steve Khan, his clever interpretations of jazz compositions shaken up with Afro-Caribbean rhythms is always on the cusp. He is the inquisitive jazz musician mastering the evasive art of reinvention and improvisation on his own terms, in his own time. - James Nadal
- From Jerry Gordon, whose weekly radio program, Serenade to a Cuckoo" appears on WPRB 103.3 FM wrote the following:
"Genius! A masterpiece. You have gotten even better with age. The new CD is perfection. Your song selections were off the hook, your guitar playing, the arrangements, the sequencing, where you are at, it's all great! Oh yeah, Rob Mounsey did a helluva job on this CD."
- Yet another very perceptive, thoughtful and well-written combination review/interview arrived by England's Matt Phillips and it appears in the March issue of his great blog, "MOVING THE RIVER." One just never knows where a great review might appear. Many thanks to Matt for continuing to write about Steve's recordings!
- From Preston Frazier's March 12th edition of his blog, "Five for the Road" comes a wonderful paragraph about Steve's latest album.
STEVE KHAN - BACKLOG (2017): Speaking of a living guitar legend, Steve Khan returns with a gorgeous mix of Latin tinged covers and infectious arrangements for a powerhouse band. Khan, a noted writer, breathes new life into songs by Thelonious Monk ("Criss Cross") and his father Sammy Cahn ("Our Town," which was co-written with Jimmy Van Heusen). An always tasteful and provocative guitarist, Steve Khan leads a band including Randy Brecker, Marc Quiñones and Bob Mintzer through a wonderful and worldly musical journey which captivates the listener.
- From the "LATIN JAZZ CORNER" website, we just received news that Chip Boaz had named "BACKLOG" as its "ALBUM OF THE WEEK"!!! We could not be more pleased and grateful for this honor. His review of the album shows that he has a deep understanding of the genre, and what Steve has been trying to do in creating a broader role for the guitar within it. Mil gracias Chip!!! Un gran abrazo!!!
- From Cali, Colombia, I was sent a link to Luis Felipe Valera's review, en Español, which appeared at his page, where he is often known as "DJ El Chino" in the February, 2017 edition of "Solar Latin Club." So, for all our Spanish speaking visitors, we are now sharing this with you.
En Backlog - material editado hace por el sello Tone Center, el guitarrista estadounidense Stene Khan nos entrega otra obra de arte, una de esas que un artista de la talla de Khan produce de manera organica. Backlog o Asuntos Pendientes, el sub-titulo de esta placa, es una lista de tareas que Khan tenia pendientes y que son aqui materializadas. Despues de mas una veintena de producciones musicales como lider y co-lider, el graduado de U.C.L.A. invita a reconocidos musicos como el bajista Rubén Rodríguez, el timbalero Marc Quiñones y el conguero Bobby Allende. Tambien tenemos el placer de escuchar a Mark Walker en la bateria, Rob Mounsey en los teclados, Randy Brecker (trompeta); Bob Mintzer (saxofón tenor), Mike Mainieri (vibrafono) y la vocalista brasilera Tatiana Parra.
Elegido como uno de los mejores 22 guitarristas de Jazz de todos los tiempos por la revista japonesa JAZZ LIFE, Khan tiene una trayectoria artistica de mas de 40 años. En esta nueva entrega, grabada en los estudios Avatar con el concurso de James Farber y Greg Calbi, Khan decide arreglar composiciones populares de músicos reconocidos y con un gran bagaje en el jazz: así nos encontramos con "Criss Cross" de Thelonious Monk; "Concepticus in C" de Greg Osby, "Latin Genetics" e "Invisible," ambas de Ornette Coleman; "Rojo" de Bobby Hutcherson o "Go Home" de Stevie Wonder, entre otras. Khan las transforma a su manera y con todo su genio adquieren nueva vida. "Latin Genetics" adquiere la forma de una plena puertorriqueña mientras que "Criss Cross" revive como una descarga explosiva y perfecta con destacadas actuaciones del mismo Khan en un fraseo hipnotico en la guitarra, asi como de Bobby Allende (congas) y Marc Quiñones (timbales). "Concepticus in C" es afrontado como un cha cha cha cadente. "Emily," una melodia Afro-Cubana en 6/8, es un viaje místico e intimista en el Khan - por medio de su fraseo - nos va llevando hasta un paraje paradisíaco. "Catta," original de Andrew Hill, posee una tensión fascinante que desemboca en un Mambo con los vocales de la paulista Tatiana Parra. - DJ El Chino
- From the blog-o-sphere, all the way south in Temuco, Chile and "Sin Temor al Jazz" we had these wonderful comments, especially for our Spanish speaking visitors:
Un gran aporte este disco, sencillamente "Sabroso", uno de los trabajos con más cercanía a los ritmos salseros de este gran guitarrista, amante del Latin Jazz, su trabajo con Standards, partiendo por "Criss Cross" del gran Thelonious hasta la vanguardia de "Latin Genetics" de Ornette, nos entrega una paleta llena de colores sonoros que no pueden sino dejarnos el alma alegre para enfrentar un nuevo día, mil gracias y saludos desde Temuco, Chile.
- From Jazz journalist, Dee Dee McNeil, who writes about "BACKLOG" in her Musical Memoirs Blog, the March 4th, 2017 edition.
"Backlog" is perhaps Khan's most innovative reimagining of musical material, generously splashing this repertoire with Latin and Afro/Cuban overtones. Compositions by Ornette Coleman, Greg Osby and even an infectious song written by Stevie Wonder called "Go Home" are all steeped in Latino rhythms. On Stevie's composition, right from the first couple of bars, Rubén Rodríguez drops the bass groove down like a whip; crisp and commanding. Then Khan's guitar brings the blues front and center on this Motown icon's work. It's Walker on drums and Quiñones and Allende on percussion who drive this music hard! This body of work celebrates Khan's extraordinary creativity and technical abilities on his axe. Khan's guitar is always in command, and at the forefront of his ensemble. The artist introduces special guests on this creative project, like Bob Mintzer, who lavishly sprays tenor saxophone colors on Ornette Coleman's tune, "Invisible." and Randy Brecker makes a guest appearance on Ornette's "Latin Genetics." As I listen to the final piece, Andrew Hill's "Catta," this innovative guitarist adds harmonic voices, singing like horns to enhance his production. For a brief moment, Khan's guitar style reminds me poignantly of Wes Montgomery on this particular piece. All in all, here is a recording that brings pleasure, energy, Latin rhythms and the innovative spirit that jazz inspires.
- From Jazz journalist, Chris Spector, who writes about "BACKLOG" in his Midwest Record Blog, the March 3rd, 2017 edition.
The average young'un probably doesn't know most of this set, no matter how august the composers were, but it'll all be new, because it's new to them, and it cooks - so little else matters. Solid stuff that's a master class in jazz guitar to the hard core, and great listening to everyone else. - Chris Spector