- Well, "THE SUITCASE" was released on March 10th, 2008, and the first reviews were published shortly thereafter. Some of them were truly outstanding and we were all most grateful for that.
- The reviews have already started to come in beginning with an incisive and wonderful REVIEW of the new CD, by John Kelman of allaboutjazz.com. You can read another superbly comprehensive review, this time by Mark F. Turner, at the same great website! My sincere thanks to them both!
- In a soon to be published 2009 edition of BASS FRONTIERS MAGAZINE" superb electric bassist, Brent-Anthony Johnson has written his own review of the "THE SUITCASE"
A "desert island" recording favorite of mine since it was released as a bootleg nearly 10-years ago, this "really" mastered, and truly released double-disc recording of the 1994 Stadtgarten Club in Köln, Germany evening with the Steve Khan/Anthony Jackson/Dennis Chambers trio has finally been released on Tone Center Records! What can I say beyond, "buy this disc!" and, "it is worth the wait!" This is a perfect night of music that has been captured in its purest form! The incredible interplay of musicianship is on full display, and this one should surely send players back to their woodsheds. Each player offers their individually intricate styles to the listener, and to one another, in a way that has rarely been seen since this event. And, after listening for the full 150+ minutes, I was still eager to hear more from this flexible three-headed powerhouse! From dreamy to muscular, "THE SUITCASE" has more than enough for the deep listener of instrumental music. This is a must have recording! - Brent-Anthony Johnson
- From a 2008 edition of MODERN DRUMMER" came a wonderfully energetic 4-1/2 stars review of "THE SUITCASE" by, Ilya Stemkovsky!!!
What doesn't Dennis Chambers do on this 1994 German live date? The Suitcase, an exhaustive and beautifully-recorded double CD, offers 2-1/2 hours of molten-hot kit work ranging from power fuzoid avalanches ("Where's Mumphrey?") to ridiculously-grooving half-time shuffles ("What I'm Said") to seldom-heard light brushes on standards ("Melancholee"). To say that Chambers shares a rapport with guitarist Khan and especially bassist Anthony Jackson would be an understatement. Dig the drummer's fiery, super-polyrhythmic solo on "Blades" and mix of quarter-note ride bell placement and fluttery snare ghosting on "The Suitcase." An inspired, green light, take-no-prisoners performance from Chambers. - Ilya Stemkovsky
- In the soon-to-be published 2009 issues of the web-magazine, "Improvisation Nation" the 2008 release, "THE SUITCASE" was honored with two wonderful reviews by Dick Metcalf. I am so very grateful for his glowing praise for this recording which means so much to Anthony, Dennis and me!!!
"THE SUITCASE"(CD1): Will wonders never cease? Only 2 weeks into Facebook & I manage to hook-up (directly) with one of the most qualified guitarists I've ever heard and, next thing I know(only a few days later), a package of CDs falls out of the mailslot with this 2008 release at the top of the stack. It's clear that this album is much different from the previously reviewed "YOU ARE HERE," in fact, it's simply astounding. It's not only that Steve's guitar whomps you right between the ears with his ability to lay back & then turn right around & solo you to the top of the excitement bar. It's also that his co-players(Anthony Jackson on contrabass guitar & Dennis Chambers on drums) are right inside Khan's head(or vice-versa). Any way you listen to it, the 6 originals and 2 covers(one from Lee Morgan, the other from Monk) will take you on a trip to the edges of the galaxy & back. What's in this suitcase is just what you need to enhance such a journey, & will provide light years of listening for jazz fans dedicated to the overarching principle that, "original" and "creative" are the fuels of the universe. The other sweet thing about the voyage is that you get 2 CDs capturing this 1994 live performance in Köln, Germany totaling over 2 hours. From the standpoint of percussion mixed with SMOKE-hot guitar/bass, I found the opening track to be my favorite on the first CD. "Where's Mumphrey?" - once Steve's guitar & Jackson's contrabass start popping together, you'll think you're at the edge of a great black hole, with nothing but stellar energy! And this is only the first CD!!! I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
"THE SUITCASE"(CD2): The sonic adventure previously mentioned continues. One aspect of this recording that I failed to emphasize properly in the earlier portion of the review is that it's a live show, and that always adds a degree of "extra" I think! If the recording is done right - and this one truly is! Some albums just "try too hard" to capture the ambience, but "THE SUITCASE" keeps the focus on the musical mastery being presented, rather than 2-minute clap sessions. You'll really hear that on track 4, "Dedicated To You".....it's one of the mellowest jazz guitar pieces I've heard in all my 60 years, and will wrap you right up in the aural wonders Khan weaves; the bass work by Anthony Jackson sounds like it's all coming from the same player - these folks are seamless! My favorite piece on the album though is "Caribbean Fire Dance," a Joe Henderson piece, highly energetic all the way thru, it clocks in at 18-minutes.....a sonic adventure in and of itself. If you are a dedicated jazz guitar fan, this double CD is a must-have! As I previously stated, give this one a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! - Rotcod Zzaj
- In the just published December issue of "JazzTimes" magazine, we were, once again, granted the 'luck of the draw' and learned that Josef Woodard had received the assignment to review "THE SUITCASE." As it always seems to be, his reviews of Steve's work contain the most thoughtful and intelligent passages. A personal "Thank you!" has to go out to Editor-in-Chief, Lee Mergner and writer Larry Appelbaum. Without their personal involvement, there is little doubt that this spectacular recording would have been ignored yet again. We are all most grateful to see this review on the stands now!!!
Contrary to the implications of detractors, all electric jazz is not created equal, or with a common pool of aesthetic values. Take the case of guitarist Steve Khan's trio, which never quite got the respect it deserved, partly because of its subtlety. Khan's powerfully vibe-y and grooving trio, with expansive handed and minded bassist Anthony Jackson(whose ax is aptly identified as "contrabass guitar") and intrinsically "electric"-sounding drummer Dennis Chambers, was one of the most intriguing and distinctive units in the post-fusion crowd, standing apart by virtue of its house blend of visceral and poetic powers.
Listening to this double-disc live recording, captured in Köln in 1994, almost 15 years later, we get a keen retrospective appreciation for what Khan and colleagues were up to, with the benefit of historical hindsight. At that time in the '90s, John Scofield had scored a coup with his electro-acoustic group that included Joe Lovano and acoustic bassist Dennis Irwin. In a very different way, Khan's group brought acoustic values to an electric context. The 15-song set list includes Khan's own infectiously cryptic tunes and select covers by Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, and Joe Henderson, plus a ballad reading of the standard "Dedicated to You," with lyrics by Khan's illustrious father, Sammy Cahn.
The group gets to a place where energy and implication meet, with grooves fueled by Latin, fun, and swing pulses. Chambers, a commanding force at the trio's core, is the straight man, in a way. On the electric scene, Khan has always been a fascinating sidewinder(pardon the Morgan-esque pun), somewhere between the jazz-rock and mainstream worlds, not quite clean-toned and mostly eschewing the easy voltage of distortion, and with a style more about the search than the slaying riff. Jackson, who gets righteously ample spotlight on this album, plays a sizable role in the trio's unique character, with sinuous, insinuating phrases, double-stops and chords, and the occasional well-placed dissonant note to keep our ear seductively off-balance.
In all, it's a tasty relic, fresh as the night it was cooked up.
- In the July issue of "BASS PLAYER" magazine, we have a most fantastic review from Chris Jisi. We are certain that everyone will enjoy reading this one. Thanks so much to Chris and magazine for granting the recording so much space. We are most grateful!!!
The trail of "THE SUITCASE" is not unlike lost luggage: On the final night of their spring 1994 tour of Germany, guitarist Khan, Anthony Jackson, and drummer Dennis Chambers left the stage sensing a special evening had taken place. Fortunately, the show was recorded to a digital 2-track master for a WDR radio broadcast, and after a long-rumored foreign bootleg made it to Khan's ears last year, he was able to secure and produce a domestic release. This is indeed fortunate because the 150-minute-plus 2-disc set is nothing short of a landmark contemporary jazz trio recording!
Given material from Khan's Eyewitness and post-Eyewitness CDs, as well as several jazz standards, Jackson(a founding Eyewitness member) and Chambers take the art of rhythm-section support, near-telepathic trio interplay, and conversation-leading to alpha levels. Right from the surging opener, Anthony is in fourth-quarter form, underpinning the key accents in Chambers' polyrhythmic dance, while engaging Khan's guitar harmonically. Throughout, Jackson's signature 6-string moves are in place: from the powerful palm-muting on the halftime funk of "What I'm Said" to the pick-and-flanger spontaneous reharmonization that closes out "Eyewitness."
Well-known for approaching his instrument as a guitar, Anthony's concept has never been more dynamically stated. He launches "Blades" with a montuno figure; is the sole melodic presence for the first third of "Guy Lafleur"; employs the trill as an accompaniment tool on "Dr. Slump"; and is ever ready with a chord or counter-melody when Khan is blowing. This element alone creates an important distinction from the traditional upright supported jazz trio, while establishing frontier status for electric trios.
That said, what bassists will long be talking about is the title track. Equipped with two Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb units and his volume pedal, Jackson launches into an ethereal rubato opening that echoes one of his favorite instruments, the Ondes-Martenot. And even those who recall the original Eyewitness version of the song(from "CASA LOCO") will marvel at A.J.'s 6/4 upper-register ostinato, which he eventually plays double-time with frightening near-sequencer efficiency. In short, "THE SUITCASE" delivers our most thoroughly original bass guitarist at his best!
- Just now, I was sent an advance copy of Rafael Vega Curry's review, in Spanish of course, which will appear in the May 11th issue of "Revista Domingo" from "EL NUEVO DÍA" newspaper in Puerto Rico.
So, for all our Spanish speaking visitors, this was definitely something we wanted to share with you.
Buenas nuevas de Steve Khan
Admito que conocí la música de Steve Khan hace relativamente poco. Fue en 1998, gracias a "TJADERIZED", un álbum en el que el vibrafonista Dave Samuels rinde tributo a Cal Tjader en compañía de algunos los mejores músicos de jazz latino: Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, David Sánchez... Sin embargo, más allá de la oportunidad de escuchar este junte de talentos, para mí "TJADERIZED" fue otra cosa: el feliz descubrimiento del sonido de Steve Khan y su guitarra 'líquida', refinada, con una personalidad totalmente suya.
Más tarde supe de las diversas etapas por las que su música ha atravesado: su época de fusión/funk, sus grabaciones de aire latino, su participación como 'sideman' en bandas de grandes estrellas del jazz y el pop, desde Miles Davis y los hermanos Brecker hasta James Brown y Steely Dan. Khan (nacido en Los Ángeles en 1947) parece tener un don para unirse con otros músicos de primera categoría.
Esto queda evidenciado una vez más en "THE SUITCASE - Live in Köln '94" (Tone Center), un álbum doble con una historia inusual. Fue grabado por la WDR -radio estatal alemana- durante el último concierto de una gira, y estuvo disponible durante años sólo en versiones piratas que el propio Khan desconocía; éste es el debut 'oficial' de esta música. Lo cual es una excelente noticia, porque el sonido es magnífico (mejor que el de algunos discos grabados en estudio) y permite apreciar el rico interplay entre Khan y sus músicos, Anthony Jackson en 'contrabass guitar' y Dennis Chambers en batería. Son un trío maravillosamente bien integrado; se nota la confianza que hay entre ellos.
La noche de este concierto estaban especialmente inspirados. Abundan los buenos momentos: el 'drumming' polirrítmico de "What I'm Said"; el diálogo jubiloso y bien 'apretado' de guitarra y bajo en "Blue Zone 41"; la manera sabia y delicada en que Khan va desarrollando su solo en la balada "Melancholee" (de Lee Morgan); la belleza melódica de "Dr. Slump." Todos estos números corresponden al CD 1; en el 2, increíblemente, Khan va aun más lejos, ejecutando solos -a mi juicio- con mayor profundidad. Jackson tiene su momento de gloria en el tema que le da título al disco, con un verdadero recital de técnicas de bajo, y Chambers 'reescribe el libro' de lo que es un solo de batería en "Caribbean Fire Dance" (de la autoría de Joe Henderson) con un espectacular despliegue de casi 15 minutos de duración.
Cada uno de los discos que componen "THE SUITCASE" dura sobre 77 minutos, pero la calidad y la variedad musical son tan altas que el oyente no se cansa en ningún momento. Esta es una de las cumbres creativas de Steve Khan y, ciertamente, uno de los discos del año.
- Finally I was sent a link to Antonio Fernández' review, also in Spanish, which appeared in the April, 2008 issue of his Jazz blog, "Vive Jazz" from Madrid, Spain. So, for all our Spanish speaking visitors, we are now sharing this with you.
Desde su primer disco "SOMETIME OTHER THAN NOW" en el 76, el guitarrista Steve Khan nos ha ofrecido una carrera discográfica intermitente pero llena de momentos fantásticos que se resumen en este doble CD titulado "THE SUITCASE", grabado en directo el año 94 en la localidad alemana de Colonia y que ahora se edita. En el disco, grabado a trio, Steve está acompañado por el bajista Anthony Jackson y el baterista Dennis Chambers y en él se puede apreciar la calidad y elegancia de este músico que en el pasado ha acompañado a Steely Dan, Joe Zawinul y que, más recientemente, formara parte del grupo Caribbean Jazz Project. En sus discos de los 70 "TIGTHROPE", "THE BLUE MAN" y "ARROWS", la música de Khan estaba siempre respaldada por los mejores músicos de su generación: Brecker Brothers, Steve Gadd, Will Lee o David Sanborn. Desde el año 98 al 2005, Steve permaneció inédito y, cuando ya muchos de sus incondicionales no esperaban nada nuevo, reapareció con un gran disco "THE GREEN FIELD", acompañado por el percusionista Manolo Badrena, el bajista John Pattitucci y el baterista Jack DeJohnette para, dos años después, volver con "BORROWED TIME" que muchos recordareis por el tema que popularizara en los años 40 Xavier Cugat titulado "Moon And Sand", cantado para la ocasión en el disco de Khan por Gabriela Anders. Ahora puedes disfrutar de este gran álbum en directo, con ese sonido intenso característico de uno de los mejores guitarristas de las últimas décadas.
- More recently, a very nice, though highly descriptive review appears in the Louisville Music News from the pen of Martin Z. Kasdan, Jr. We are all most grateful for the space granted in this fine publication.
- This final and superlative review comes to us from Brent Black's blog at "Digital Jazz News." I hope that everyone will now enjoy reading it here.
Lighting in a bottle
In a studio it is rare. In a live performance almost unheard of.
On May 17, 1994 Steve Khan along with Anthony Jackson on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums took the stage for a magical evening at the Stadtgarten Club in Koln Germany. An evening of improvisational genius you would be hard pressed to find available on any recorded format of music over the last 30 years - minimum.
Khan describes his role, especially as it relates to this release in this fashion: "I aspire to be a 'music-maker' - an artist who makes music, and just happens to play the guitar. I would not want to be seen as someone who just makes "guitar music" - that's NOT what I'm trying to do! So, in a case like "THE SUITCASE" - which may well represent the best of what we try to do. What I contribute is the creation of a musical environment that allows Anthony and Dennis the freedom to play what they hear. And, if I am doing that, then I feel like I am playing at my best. But, I say that knowing full well that, I have my limitations - just like everyone else!!!" NOTE: Anthony Jackson on the contrabass guitar. For the uninitiated, the contrabass guitar is is a 6-string electric bass with a low B-string - which goes down below the range of the normal low E-string. Hence the title, Contrabass Guitar. According to Steve, Jackson used to maintain that he simply plays the bass guitar. Melodic lines flow effortlessly from Jackson on this recording, and at times both Khan and Jackson sound as one musical chain of thought. Improvisational wizardry at its very finest.
Dennis Chambers on drums. A supreme compliment, if not a "goal" for most drummers, is to be as they say, "In the pocket." Chambers IS the pocket! The ability to lay down not just a groove, but to do so in a highly "musical" fashion is rare. Somewhere between Max Roach and Jack DeJohnette, Chambers is in a class all by himself, and is the glue that holds this very special recording together.
Full of Khan originals, the trio also takes on the works of Monk, Lee Morgan, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, and Sammy Cahn. One of the most entertaining aspects of this release is the flow, ease and grace with which this incredible music is presented. Nothing overpowering, while at times still having numerous "jaw-dropping" moments.
The amusing background story is that this disc almost never saw the light of day. A few short years ago, Khan found himself in a car with a young guitarist in Medellín, Colombia, and was listening to a pirated recording of this very work! Steve had the foresight to give the performance DATs to Chambers after the show back in 1994, and as luck would have it, he was soon contacted by ESC Records(Germany) to check on his interest in making this pirated brilliance - "street legal." NOTE 2: Recorded digitally, and direct to a two-track master!
In the end, "THE SUITCASE" is one of the greatest live recordings I have ever heard!!!