Steve Khan – Eyewitness (1983)

FrontCover1Steve Khan (born April 28, 1947)[1] is an American jazz guitarist.

He was born in Los Angeles, California, United States. According to Steve Khan, his father, lyricist Sammy Cahn, “loved to hear of any and all versions of his songs”. Thus Khan grew up in a house with music. He took piano lessons as a child and played drums for the surf rock band the Chantays. The band’s guitarist exposed him to the albums Tough Talk by The Crusaders and Movin’ Wes by Wes Montgomery. In his late teens he quit the drums and started playing guitar. He was a member of the R&B band Friends of Distinction, recorded with keyboardist Phil Moore, then played on the album Bullitt by Wilton Felder (“one of my heroes”). Despite his father’s advice to avoid a career in the music business, he graduated from UCLA with a degree in music composition and theory.

In the early 1970s, he performed in an acoustic guitar duo with Larry Coryell and was a member of the Brecker Brothers band. As a session musician, he appeared on albums by Ashford & Simpson, Rupert Holmes, Billy Joel, and Steely Dan. He was signed to Columbia Records through the efforts of Bobby Colomby and Bob James.

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On his first three albums Tightrope (1977), The Blue Man (1978), and Arrows (1979), he was trying “to single-handledly keep alive the sound of the original Brecker Brothers band.” His next album was Evidence (1980), which contained an eighteen-minute medley of songs by Thelonious Monk.

He has also produced recordings for fellow guitarists Larry Coryell, Mike Stern, Biréli Lagrène, and Bill Connors, as well as pianist Eliane Elias. (wikipedia)

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I’m not certain just how this all happened, but, in 1981 I was still searching for a direction on the electric guitar and it led me to go back to the most basic sound, the one I began with when I was 19 yrs. old and at U.C.L.A.! Steve Jordan, Anthony Jackson, and Manolo BadrenaIt was pretty simple, just plug into an amp with a Gibson, dial in a little reverb, and play! I had owned a Gibson 335 for many years, but was so linked to my Telecaster and its sound that it was hard to change. I began as a Gibson player and decided to go back to it for the warmth and body of the sound. I was also ready to surround myself with a totally different group of players in conjunction with a new spirit of making music….something much looser, something not so married to having everything neatly in place and perfectly played(not that I was ever the best at that!). Some phone calls were made, and two of my favorite players and I were to get together to “see what happens.” Those players were drummer Steve Jordan, and bassist Anthony Jackson. I also felt that I wanted to include the brilliant and unique percussionist Manolo Badrena. Manolo and I had recently worked together on Mike Mainieri’s recording “WANDERLUST,” and I just knew somehow that he was the right player for this new concept.

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We used to meet to ‘rehearse’/’jam’ at Steve Jordan’s loft in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. I’m still not certain just what to call what we did….but, we would just begin to play…..sometimes ideas or grooves that didn’t seem to have a place in any other musical setting. Here you had four very unique perspectives on music making….and four of the most stubborn maniacs one could gather in a room, but somehow it was working. It was magical! I would always record CSTEs of each session and bring them home for study. As the months went by, I just KNEW that we had something exceptional, and I wanted to get it recorded before we actually figured out just what it was that we were doing. So, with the help of our old friend George Braun, who put together deals for Japan, we were able to record on a weekend in November of 1981, and to this day, “EYEWITNESS” remains one of my favorite recordings….perhaps THE favorite. Only five tunes….not one with a real ending…..but, the spirit and approach to music-making was the best I’d ever felt. No matter where I have traveled, there is always a drummer or bassist who, when speaking with me, reveals that he has been influenced by the work of Anthony Jackson and Steve Jordan on the three recordings we made together. The word “genius” is a pretty scary label to throw out there without great thought and care, but, in my opinion, Anthony Jackson and Manolo Badrena possess this gift…..the moods and textures they are able to create are just not of this earth. I treasure these musical friendships.

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In 2015, as part of his Rediscovery reviews series by,’s senior writer John Kelman wrote an incredible review of the “EYEWITNESS” album from 1981.. The review points out how this recording has informed and influenced all of Steve’s work right up to the present. If a generation or two has missed the “EYEWITNESS” album, this is a great opportunity to rediscover it!!!
And, as if this wasn’t enough, the French magazine MUZIQ, in a fantastic column by Peter Cato, also sang the praises of the Eyewitness as a group, mentioning all 3 recordings and making a case for a musical relationship to the Rock group The Police! Very interesting!! (Steve Kahn)


Manolo Badrena (percussion)
Anthony Jackson (bass)
Steve Jordan (drums)
Steve Khan (guitar)

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01. Where’s Mumphrey? (Jackson/Badrena/Jordan/Khan) 7.31
02. Dr. Slump (Khan) 8.24
03. Auxiliary Police (Jackson/Badrena/Jordan/Khan) 5.30
04. Guy Lafleur (Khan) 10.33
05. Eyewitness (Khan) 7.19



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Steve Khan – Parting Shot (2011)

FrontCover1Evolution is one of those things where an artist either gradually shifts direction, or makes sudden quantum leaps. Guitarist Steve Khan has done both in a career dating back four decades, and the first of three hot fusion records for Columbia as a leader, Tightrope (1977), that fit firmly in Brecker Brothers camp, but, with an in-your-face guitar presence that ran the occasional risk of over-dominance. Khan had a clear epiphany with Evidence (Arista, 1980), an overlooked gem interpreting the music of Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and others in a largely acoustic environs, but with an array of guitars broadening its expansive soundscape.

Another paradigm shift came with the formation of Eyewitness, Khan adopting a more Spartan approach in a percussion-driven context where space and groove reigned paramount; as was a passion for Latin rhythms that began to creep into his music. Khan’s subsequent growth was more incremental, and a recent revival of activity has yielded some particularly fine recordings on Tone Center: the improv-heavy The Green Field (2006); more ambitious Borrowed Time (2007); and tremendous The Suitcase (2008), from a live 1994 Eyewitness date, minus the group’s regular percussionist, Manolo Badrena.

Khan’s steadfast avoidance of guitar grandstanding has kept him away from greater visibility, but Parting Shot may, in fact, be the definitive Khan recording that embraces a plethora of Latin rhythms in the looser context of Eyewitness. Intimate details of the session can be read in the guitarist’s Reflections on the Making of Parting Shot, an AAJ exclusive; but suffice to say his bomba on a short but seminal reading of Monk’s “Bye-Ya,” the “find-the-one” gaita of his own “Los Gaiteros,” and comingling of James Brown funk, Brazilian tinges and Afro-Cuban 6/8 pulse on “María Mulambo” demonstrate an intimacy with Latin forms that few, if any, guitarists have explored to this extent. Khan’s Reflections describes the work that went into making Parting Shot—an Eyewitness reunion augmented by two additional percussionists, and Rob Mounsey’s tasteful orchestrations on a handful of tracks, making it the most densely arranged and sonically expansive album the group has ever made—but it’s easier to dispense with the info and just groove to Khan’s music, which is as booty-shaking as it is cerebral.

Khan’s playing remains the epitome of economy, as he peppers deceptively simple lines with complex chordal voicings that belie tremendous knowledge without losing their inherent organic feel. Parting Shot retains Borrowed Time’s tasty grooves, but its more electrified energy makes it the perfect follow-up to The Suitcase, as Khan injects spare harmonization on Ornette Coleman’s “Chronology” and his buoyant closer, “Just Deserts,” and a sweetly overdriven tone on the simmering “Zancudoville” that harkens back to his early days, but with greater maturity and restraint.

A restraint that defines Parting Shot, despite its high octane (and, undeniably at times, thoroughly exhilarating) participants. Parting Shot may well be Khan’s final recording as a leader. If it is, it’s a great way to go out; but when an album is this good, it’s hard not to demand a follow-up. (by John Kelman)

Bobby Allendes: conga)
Manolo Badrena (percussion, vocals on 05. + 10.)
Dennis Chambers (drums)
Anthony Jackson (bass. guitar)
Steve Khan (guitar)
Marc Quinones (percussion)
Andres Beeeuwsaert (vocals on 06.)
Rob Mounsey (keyboards on 09., orchestrations on 02., 04., 06. + 07.)
Tatiana Parra (vocals on 06.)
01. Chronology (Coleman) 4.21
02. Los Gaiteros (Khan) 6.05
03. Change Agent (El Catalizador) (Kahn) 8.15
04. Bye-ya (Monk) 4.34
05. Maria Mulambo (Kahn/Badrena) 10.21
06. Influence Peddler (Traficante de Influencias) (Kahn) 10.20
07. When She s Not Here (Cuando Ella no Esta) (Kahn) 7.44
08. Blues Connotation (Coleman) 4.53
09. Zancudoville (Kahn) 7.12
10. Just Deserts (Kahn) 6.16