What does "Jazz" mean to you?|
[SK] It means that one is constantly in search of that which is not attainable. One measures oneself against one's heroes, and can never quite measure up to them. You learn to accept what it is that you do best.
 You've done more recording as a sideman than solo recordings - is that an indication that you prefer to stay out of the spotlight?
[SK] My work, recording as a sideman, all happened by accident, not by design. I moved to New York to become a solo artist and it has always been a difficult struggle.
 When and where were you happiest?
[SK] At this point in my life, I am not at all certain that I understand what 'happiness' is. For me, it is, and has been, elusive, capricious, at times, just an illusion. But, I know that it is spiritually internal. I am certain of that.
 What sport moves you?
[SK] All four of the major sports. But, I appreciate athletes performing under great pressure, no matter what the sport might be. Also, teamwork over individual brilliance makes sports and music brothers!
 Guilty pleasure?
[SK] Mallomars, Indian food, and New Orleans cuisine.
 What's the story behind changing the spelling of the last name of your father, Sammy Cahn?
[SK] My father, Sammy Cahn.....was actually born, Sammy Cohen...but, I was never told this until I was about 25-28 yrs. old. When I found out, I could NOT believe this! But, by that time, I had already changed the 'professional' spelling of my last name. I was young and, in truth, I didn't understand the true deeper meanings, of what I was doing. Of course, I was trying to create a separate identity from my famous father.....but, because I was so hurt and angry with him for so many childhood things....I was also saying, in a most juvenile fashion, "SCREW YOU DAD!" as children often do to their parents at one time or another....in one way or another.
When my father, at a very young age, left home and went out on his own to pursue fame and fortune in music, he first wanted to change his last name to K-A-H-N, but at that time there was already a famous songwriter named Gus Kahn who also wrote many, many wonderful songs. So, my father eventually arrived at C-A-H-N. And that's the story.
What happened with me is that I initially began my career using my given spelling, but when I started recording and would turn in my W-4 forms with my name spelled correctly and very clearly so, somehow, when the album would come out, my name would be spelled incorrectly.....everything from: Cahan, Chan, Khan, Kahan, Kahn, Carn, you get the picture. So, after too much of this, I just decided to pick a spelling which I liked.....and, not being fully aware of all the implications, I chose Khan. It all seems so very stupid now, but that's how people have come to know me.
 What was the primary influence of your father, a lyricist, on your guitar playing?
[SK] To appreciate a good song, no matter what the genre. A good song is always a good song! And, to learn the lyrics!
 The most important lesson you've learned?
[SK] To always trust my first instinct about people! When I don't, I'm always wrong!
 What talent do you wish you had?
[SK] I wish I could draw caricatures.
 What is your most valued possession?
[SK] The friendships which span long periods of time.
 Is "Cosecha lo que has sembrado," the dedication to percussionists Tito Puente and Willie Bobo on The Green Field, indicative of you being a former drummer?
[SK] In part, but it's more of a reflection of my immense respect for the history and scope of Latin music.
 What's the best gift you've received recently?
[SK] A clean bill of health on my coronary CAT scan!
 Anything special you take on tour?
[SK] Candles, so that hotel rooms don't smell like hotel rooms!
 A hobby?
 One thing people would never imagine you'd do?
[SK] Watch "Survivor" and "The Dog Whisperer"
 Three records worth mentioning?
[SK] Only 3? "UNITY" - Larry Young; "INVENTIONS AND DIMENSIONS" - Herbie Hancock; "SUPER TRIOS" - McCoy Tyner
 Recent favorite movies?
[SK] "CRASH" and anything by the Coen Bros.
 Favorite books?
[SK] Anything by Walter Mosley, or Tom Friedman
 What's the latest book you've read?
[SK] "ORNETTE COLEMAN: A Harmolodic Life" by John Litweiler
 What's in your CD player right now?
[SK] I actually rarely listen to music. When I do, I put on the "Jazz Samplers" which I've created from various favorite tunes, and artists from the past. But, my most recent iTunes purchases were: "You're My Girl"(Cahn-Styne) - Frank Sinatra; and "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" - Ann Peebles
[Photos: Steve w/ actor Jeff Chandler and Willie Mays
Sammy & Steve ca. '68
Steve @ Avatar Studio 'A', May 23rd, 2005
Photo & Tint by: Richard Laird]