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See Steve's Hand-Written Lead Sheet

Steve Khan's "BUDDY SYSTEM" Lead Sheet

    As I knew that the repertoire for "LET'S CALL THIS" was going to be fundamentally drawn from my own quirky book of 'oddball' standards, I wanted to at least write one piece for the recording. And so, I chose to compose a tune using the basic harmony and form indicated by 'rhythm changes,' which would always refer to George Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm." Essentially, "Buddy System" was composed by hearing a melody which, for the most part, conformed to this harmonic movement. The only great variance occurs in bar 2 of each [A] section.
LET'S CALL THIS - Steve Khan     I think that the formation of the lines receives a little 'kick,' a lift, from the appearance of the triplet figures in bar 4 of each [A] section and in bar 8 of the first letter [A]. The figures in bar 4 were intended to be doubled by my guitar and Ron Carter's acoustic bass. However, at the rehearsals it seemed to sound good to us to have [A] and [A2] stated by the guitar and Al Foster's drums alone, with Ron then joining us at [B].
    I suppose that, on some level, the entire tune has a "Monk" feeling about it, but perhaps most of all at [B] where the melody somehow touches upon most of the color tones(9, 13) and harmonic alterations(b5, #5, b9, #9) of the cycle of dominant 7th chords.
    Looking back at the studio performance of the tune, I don't know that it was our best, but mostly I recall that we recorded this CD just as the Gulf War had commenced, and Ron, Al and I were extremely saddened by these events, not to mention fearful of what was to come. In that regard, it was remarkable how the tempo of almost every single track was slower than where we had rehearsed them days before. It proved to me how very much outside events can affect your performances in ways you just can't see or feel at the time. How sadly ironic it is that I was sitting here putting the final touches to these notes as the U.S. was preparing to go to war with Iraq. And now, it has happened.
    The format for the solos was simple and straightahead, just use the 32-bar, A-A-B-A form. For the recording, we chose to have Ron Carter solo first, followed by my guitar. I don't remember if we did a take which featured some 8's and 4's between the guitar and drums, but perhaps not, or it certainly would have ended-up on the recording! As I've stated many times elsewhere, I loved playing along with the sound and bounce of Al Foster's beautiful collection of Paiste cymbals, especially the ones with rivets in them. They give the music a sense of floating on air and, after a time, begin to actually sound like violins to me! Crazy as that might seem to some of you.
    Sometime later, I was greatly honored when "Buddy System" was recorded by the Yellowjackets on their "GREENHOUSE"(GRP) CD, but because they were hoping to have tunes which all had "ecological" references in their titles, I allowed them to change the title to "Brown Zone," which referred to the air pollution problems in Los Angeles. I, of course, argued that "Buddy System" could be viewed as an ecological title because, in my view, it refers to the 'sharing of air' underwater by scuba divers. What could be more 'save the planet' than that? Oh well, another very minor disagreement lost! I guess I should have taken that debating class in high school!
    For their performance, Russell Ferrante made his own alterations to various parts of the melody which I enjoyed very much. For example, at bar 3, he chose to leave out the 'F' on beat one. Then, at the end of bar 5, he moved the 'G' on beat 4 to the last 8th note of the bar.Steve Khan-Al Foster-Ron Carter Then, [B] gets the full "Monk" treatment, complete with Hall Overton-like orchestral touches, and pianistic dissonances all over the place. In addition to those touches, the phrasing of the melody became very elastic, and that personal touch added a great deal as well. Finally, in bar 7 of the last [A], the last 8th note of beat 3 was changed from an 'F' to an 'E' adding a further small touch to the very jagged sense of melody. For me, it was especially great to hear Bob Mintzer's bass clarinet playing the melody. It all complies with my philosophy that if you're going to play the music of someone else, "make it your own!" And, they did just that, and I'm very proud to have written something which appeared on any Yellowjackets recording because they have, in my opinion, one of the greatest 'books' of contemporary music to be found anywhere!
    Though I believe that I have mentioned this once before, perhaps in the "Got My Mental" notes, I think that a young musician, one about to dedicate his/her life to the pursuit of this wonderful music, would benefit greatly from trying to write, over a period of time, one blues per week, and one "rhythm changes" tune per week. I would imagine that after some time had passed, you would have a couple of each which you would feel pretty good about. Stay disciplined, give it a try, and see how you do. You might even find it helpful to stick to the 'classic' keys of Bb, F, or Eb. I know that's not going to make some of you guitar players too happy, but what can I say? You are going to have to play and perform in settings which will include trumpets and saxophones and this can only help you in being prepared.
    Please know how very, very much I appreciate all your visits to the website, and especially those of you who repeatedly visit both sectors of KHAN'S KORNER. We continue to try our best to keep things interesting, to answer your questions, and share music with you in the most positive manner. Hoping that you are all having a beautiful "Spring" wherever you might be. Here, in New York City, we are most relieved to have said, "Good-bye!" to the Winter of 2003, because "Old Man Winter" was really mean this year!!! At the time the preceding was written, the world seemed like a slightly different place. Now, to speak about "the weather" seems rather trivial and frivolous. From this most humble of perspectives, I am going to simply wish all of you, PEACE and safety in your homes, neighborhoods, cities, and countries, for these are truly sad, sad times for all of humanity!

[Photo: Steve Khan-Al Foster-Ron Carter @ Skyline Studios, January, 1991
Photo by: David Tan]

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