See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription
Steve Khan's acoustic guitar solo on:
"Epistrophy"(Thelonious Monk-Kenny Clarke)
If one must know the truth, it is that it was "Epistrophy" that spawned this entire album. On one July, 2018 afternoon, I was having a conversation with drummer Mark Walker, and I don't even recall how the topic turned to this Thelonious Monk-Kenny Clarke classic, but, without my even being aware of it, I had been thinking about that tune from a rhythmic perspective, and I tried to point-out a moment to Mark where I felt that something that Monk was playing was telling me that it was, or could be, Afro-Cuban 6/8. Mark nodded in agreement, and for the moment, the conversation went on to other areas of life. But my thoughts about that tune continued to swirl around in my imagination. It was shortly thereafter that I dragged my old Yamaha DX-7 keyboard out of the closet, and out of its case, set it up next to my computer, plugged in the midi to USB cable, and the next thing I knew - an arrangement was being developed! Where once I had nothing, not an idea, suddenly 6 other tunes that I had always loved came to mind, and work began simultaneously on each one. Days and nights just passed in and out of one another, and about 6 weeks later, I paused to take a deep breath, and realized that I had gone from nothing to having 7 completed, or nearly so, arrangements in the computer! I couldn't believe it. It was, for that moment, such a wonderful feeling - hard to articulate exactly how much it means to me - how much it meant to me - to my spirit. To have accidentally relocated my creative center felt like a miracle - because I was certain that it was never ever going to visit me again.
Once I had arrived at that point, there was going to be no stopping me in taking the necessary steps to realizing yet another dream, making a recording happen - no matter what the cost might be emotionally, physically, and no less so, financially! But, this is my life, this is who I am, this is what I do - what else is there? And thus began a series of the usual, for me, consultations with trusted colleagues and close friends: Rafael Greco, Rob Mounsey, Marc Quiñones, Rubén Rodríguez and James Farber. There is always a lot of back-and-forth, and in the process, the arrangements morph and change for the better. For me, it is always an immense learning experience, and an exercise in testing my flexibility.
It is said that Thelonious Monk wrote some 70 tunes. It's a bit hard to pinpoint one interpretation by the composer as the "source" of inspiration for this particular arrangement and performance. But, if pressed, I would say that the two versions that featured John Coltrane are essential. Both were recorded in 1957, "MONK'S MUSIC"(Riverside) and then the release, many years later, of "THELONIOUS MONK QUARTET with JOHN COLTRANE at CARNEGIE HALL"(Blue Note). Though it's rather short, I loved Hall Overton's big band arrangement that appears on "MONK: BIG BAND AND QUARTET IN CONCERT"(Columbia). I would also want to add in organist Don Patterson's version from "BOPPIN' & BURNIN'(Prestige)(1968), which really caused me to firmly hear that I could do this piece within the context of Afro-Cuban 6/8. All along, I heard another element, and that was that the brilliant Dennis Chambers could play his take on the "[Bernard] Purdie Shuffle" against the 6/8. When Dennis and I finally spoke about this piece, he listened to my demo, and assured me that this WAS possible. So, with all those elements in place. I felt ready and confident that this would work. More than that, it would enable me to play what I feel as 4/4 with a swing to it over the 6/8 - and this, for me, is really crucial to the mixing of the genres.
It wasn't so long ago that a fan sent me a link to a YouTube video that had been momentarily posted illegally from the DVD 'JAZZ MASTERS" Volume 1, where I was honored to have been featured with Pat Martino, Bill Frisell, and Emily Remler. I mention this because, I had no recollection at all that, when this was originally filmed for Christian Roebling's "THE GUITAR SHOW" I have played a different "Monk Medley" than the one that appears on "EVIDENCE"(Arista/Novus)(1980). Of all things, I had played: "Epistrophy"-"Hackensack"-"Played Twice"-"Let's Call This"! The latter three I went on to record on albums like "LET'S CALL THIS" and "HEADLINE." It seemed like I was never going to get around to recording "Epistrophy" - and yet, here we are.
Like many of Monk's tunes, "Epistrophy" is played in the classic 32-bar A-A-B-A form. But, in true character for Monk, there is a most interesting twist, in that the three [A] are not mirror images of one another. In fact, [A2] reverses the order of the chords that appear in [A] and [A3] is like [A2]. For some, this could really make your mind go dyslexic. It's fascinating that when you reverse the order of the two basic chords Db7 and Eb7 to become Eb7 and then Db7(C#7), the latter becomes the perfect V7 chord to lead us to letter [B] where the first chord is F#m7. Then, just as clever as Monk was, as the bridge ends, you are ascending from a bar of Db7 to a bar of D7 - and where should that lead you? A-ha, up to Eb7 and the beginning of [A3]. So, small wonder Monk became known as "the genius of modern music"!!! He was something so very special, and I love his music as much today as I did when I was considerably younger - ages ago.
Marc Quiñones' brilliantly inventive timbal pick-up to Chorus 1 leads us into the solo and letter [C] . I decided to write out the solo in 4/4 with 6/8 in parentheses because I am really feeling things as if it was a kind of cut-time 'swing' (snapping your fingers on 2 and 4). Throughout the solo you will see 8th-note triplets written when I alluding to the 6/8 feeling. So, as we go along, keep that in mind. It's also worth noting that my commentary during these analyses is always done in 20/20 hindsight, so an observation is only done looking back and might seem clever but, musically speaking, I would never have thought of some of these things while playing - no way!!! The opening phrase of the solo seems to incorporate notes from the melody almost in retrograde, especially the last two notes in bar 2: D-natural to Db. Remember to pay attention to the phrases that end with long-short articulations! The phrase that answers this first phrase then ends with Db to Cb. As the chord changes to Eb7, the change is greeted by a nice clustered 7(13) voicing that I like. It's worth mentioning early on the spectacular support that I received from Rubén Rodríguez throughout the recording, and here, he is a marvel of inventive bass playing while still keeping things harmonically simple. This is what gives me the freedom to call upon all of the various things that I hear. In bars 7-8, you have a paraphrase of bars 3-4, just up a whole-step. As [C2] arrives, and remembering we're still on Eb7, the first phrase is in triplets and comes from Bb minor pentatonic [Bb, Db, Eb, F, Ab] and the response to that phrase is a little tip of the cap to Monk with the sounds of 9b5, though on the guitar, it's really like playing an F7 voicing (Eb-F-A). Bar 3 sees a reprise of the opening pentatonic phrase, but this is followed by another very Monkish linear device using the Eb whole-tone scale [Eb, F, G, A, B, Db]. As there are only two(2) whole-tone scales, it can be almost silly to put a tonal label on any one of them and here, I could have labeled this one as A whole-tone, as it is the b5 sub of Eb - but why get so complicated? As we return to Db7 for bars 5-8, I am now reprising the opening phrases to the solo coupled with Ab minor pentatonic [Ab, Cb, Db, Eb, Gb]. In bar 7, there another paraphrase of the solo's opening giving way to a chordal passage that bears the influence of early Chick Corea playing Latin music on Cal Tjader's magical album "SOUL BURST"(Verve)
With the arrival of the bridge, here labeled as [D], Rob Mounsey's beautiful but very subtle orchestral pads arrive to supply a contrasting texture and a sense of romance, amidst all of the rhythmic fury. The first 2 bars reveals a brief quote from one of my favorite Monk tunes, "Monk's Mood," now played up a 1/2-step from its original key of F minor. Played with a swing 4/4 feel, notice the little triplet grouping at the end of bar 4. Not only does this phrasing mannerism contribute to the feel, it is also a part of the phrasing of the [B] melody section! Over the B7b5 chord in bar 5, once again, I draw from Monk's fondness for whole-tone scales and here I use the B whole-tone scale [B, C#, D#, F, G, A] and, as you can see, it contains the same notes as the Eb whole-tone scale that appeared before. This time, I am beginning on F-natural. Over the last 2 bars: Db7(9sus) to D7(9sus), I am playing an ascending triplet grouping followed by a descending triplet grouping and each case they follow along the arc of an arpeggio, though over the D7(9sus) sonority, I am really playing D dominant 7th pentatonic [D, E, F#, A, C]. With the arrival of [C3] and more Eb7, I return to using Bb minor pentatonic but this time, I throw in an E-natural as a blue note. Notice the rich tone of the low Db. This is again a tribute to the engineering of James Farber and his mic'ing of my Marshall speaker cabinets. In bar 3, it's back to Bb minor pentatonic answered by a chordal phrase in bar 4. Notice how the movement of the inside voices harmonizes the consonant melody voice! As Db7 returns in bar 5, the line is derived from Ab Dorian [Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, F, Gb] and bar 6 is a simple reprise of Monk's melody. This first chorus concludes with ascending Db7#9 voicings in m3rds that conclude with a Monkish Db7b5 voicing with Db on top.
Chorus 2 begins with an Eyewitness moment as I recall the broken chordal vamp from "Guy Lafleur." When two people have played together as much as Dennis and I have, when there's a chance to play something that you know is going to make the other person smile, it is well worth it. This was just such a moment. Of course, the original tune was in Dbm and now, over Db7, I am playing the same chordal configuration except now it has to be in Abm7(sus). When I hear it, it almost doesn't feel like it's a 4th below the original. in bars 5-8, as the chord goes up a whole-step to Eb7, I begin a chord sequence in major triads: Db-Eb-F, all over Rubén's bass tumbao in Eb, notice how in bar 8, the very last chordal color is a C triad. As we hit [C2] and the Eb7 continues, here I actually play a melodic fragment from "Guy Lafleur" - more smiles from Dennis. in bars 3-4, I am playing 4ths and 6ths that reflect Bbm7/Eb7 over the Eb with the last 6th being A-F, giving me the colors of the b5 and 9th. Again, it's very subtle, and goes by so quickly that you would hardly notice what I had played. Bars 5-8 see the return to Db7 and here the lines return to triplets, this time being related to Ab melodic minor [Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, F, G] with the presence of that G-natural being the key element. As this section closes in bars 7-8, I again pay another tribute to Monk by playing sounds and intervals that speak of either Db7b5 or G7b5 (the b5 sub). So, you have 2nds (Cb-Db & F-G) followed by a 3-note voicing that reflects the sound of Db7#9 to a voicing that more like a b9 type of sound with a Db triad over a D-natural.
With the arrival of the 2nd [D] section and F#m7, the lines come from F# Dorian [F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E] with a touch of the expected modal chromaticism that has helped to define out Jazz language. It is all played with a behind the beat flavor that is so important to the feeling. On beat 1 of bar 2, pay attention to the little 16th-note triplet phrasing mannerism that is also important, if a subtlety. Bars 3-4 offer a quote from another one of my favorite Monk tunes, that being "Pannonica." I have to say that my all-time favorite interpretation of this great tune is by Chick Corea with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes. In bars 5-6 over the B7b5 chord, I first play a line that is derived from what you could say is derived from an F augmented triad to, once again, more whole-tone activity in bar 6. Over the many years, over 7b5 chords and 7#5 chords, you will hear players playing parallel augmented chords in whole steps that conform to the whole-tone nature of these sounds. In bars 7-8 over the Db7(sus) to D7(sus) chords, I am playing a motif derived from Ab Dorian and then A Dorian [A, B, C, D, E, F#, G]. What makes these two related phrases of interest is the small detail of playing a saxophonistic double-note or alternate fingering device. Here the repeated notes are F-natural in bar 7 and F# in bar 8. As the intensity continues to pick up, the Eb7 that begins our [C3] is approached by using Bb melodic minor [Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, A] in bar 1, but in bar 2, the line is really a mixture between Eb dominant 7th pentatonic [Eb, F, G, Bb, Db] and Bb minor pentatonic. In bar 3-4, you hear a reprise of the 4ths and 6ths that I had played during [C2] of this chorus - it is thematically nice and effective when motifs connect and reappear. As Db7 returns for bars 5-8 of this section, in bar 5 I play the most simple notes from any Db7 chord, but in bar 6, I am playing notes from G7, the b5 sub, but because Rubén stays home and is not wandering all over the place, harmonically speaking, this gives me the freedom to playing something like this and have it be effective. The 2nd chorus closes out in bars 7-8 with a chordal passage that begins with a basic Db7(13) voicing with Db on top, and that is followed by a series of major triads: Eb-Db-Eb and then Cb-Db-Eb - of course, ending with long-short phrasing!
For me one of the great beauties about my explorations and adventures in Latin music is that I never know when something is going to be played or discussed that is going to take me completely by surprise, and my desires to learn more and more about the idiom will be heightened. Just such a thing happened when Marc was overdubbing a campana which, often time, when we are playing in 6/8, he will not do. The presence of the chekere playing the Abakwa rhythmic pattern is more than enough given the multi-rhythmic complexities of the conga and timbal. Yet, as I watched and listened to Marc playing what felt like 'upbeats' to me on the campana - it was remarkable that there could be another layer of complexity added to the mix. So, that part that he played is heard during the Intro and then during the Fade, but also during all of the [A] melody sections. As Rob Mounsey and I were preparing the performances for mixing, we tried to find ways to use these additional parts so that they would be most effective when viewing the piece as a whole. Given what I had played during the solo, Rob and I decided that the campana would enter as Chorus 3 begins. And that is now what you hear on the right side of the mix. It is so effective because I am playing a montuno-esque pattern that was influenced by one of my earliest 'teachers' in the genre, the great pianist Oscar Hernández. Prior to hearing him play things like this in Salsa, I had only been familiar with minor chord patterns like this going down from the root to the 6th. But, Oscar reversed that and came up from the 6th, often times no further than the b7, but either way, there was something so great about it. So here, over both the Db7 in bars 1-4 and over the Eb7 in bar 5-6, I am playing my impression of Oscar's montuno. This is answered by my characteristic chord voicings in bar 8. As we hit [C2] and the Eb7 chord remains, the lines take a much more angular turn, featuring notes from the Eb7(13b9) sounds. Notice the C-naturals(13th) and E-naturals(b9). In bar 2, I answer that by playing an A7 arpeggiated line, the b5 sub, landing on a lower E-natural. All this is followed by, in bars 3-4, a return to Bb minor pentatonic with a touch of bluesy chromaticism and landing on a low Bb on my E-string. Even though that low note passes by quickly, its sound is rich and full thanks to the audio expertise of James Farber. Bar 5 features some R&B triad-related chords over Db7 landing on another familiar sonority for Eyewitness fans, the essential chord from "Sisé" from the album "PUBLIC ACCESS"(GRP)(1989). Having played that chordal sound I couldn't resist switching on my Korg DVP-1 harmonizer and using Sound #36 and in this case, the top voice is harmonized below by a m3rd [-3], a perfect 4th [-5], and a m6th [-8]. On "PATCHWORK" this marks the first appearance of my Psychedelic Big Band, a sonic device that should be familiar to people who have been listening to me since the late '80s. Joe Zawinul's former keyboard tech, Ralph Skelton, helped me out greatly by rigging-up an on/off switch that enables me to use the DVP-1 whenever the moment seems right. The reason that I needed Ralph's help so badly was that, for some reason, the Korg designers did not give the user, the player, the option of being able to cue the effect in & out, or have your sound go through the chain clean. Not having a bypass switch is certainly an annoying omission. So Ralph, with his immense electronic problem-solving skills, designed a way to route my signal so that I could finally have the kind of control that I needed. On the device itself, I can store up to 5 banks of sonorities, each with 8 programmed options. This gives me a wide harmonic palette from which to choose. I have these banks programmed in groupings so that each bank represents one of the principal chord families. To have these options, and to be able to employ them spontaneously, has been a great luxury for me. Normally, I position the DVP-1 to my immediate right, sitting in its black rack bag, and on top of my blue road case, so that I can take a breath, and reach out with my right hand, and then change the sonority within the bank that I've chosen. Back to this moment in the solo, on some unconscious level, I would hope that, if the day comes when Manolo Badrena hears this moment, he will smile and laugh along with Dennis and me!!!
As the last letter [D] arrives, and Rob's orchestration become a little more lush, over the F#m7 chord, I am playing lines from C# minor pentatonic [C#, E, F#, G#, B] in bars 1-2 and this is answered in bars 3-4 by lines from B dominant 7th pentatonic [B, C#, D#, F#, A], adding in that D# makes a huge difference. As we hit the B7b5 chord in bar 5, on beat 2 there is a bluesy bent note C# with vibrato and that note is followed in bar 6 by more B whole-tone activity with the nice touch of a 6th from F-natural up to C#. The section closes out over the Db7(9sus) to D7(9sus) with lines in triplets indicating Ab Dorian and A Dorian. As the final [C3] section arrives with Eb7, the linear emphasis and feeling turns to the blues with bent notes and vibrato. In bar 3, the answer touches upon an alternative area where I used a bit of a Gb7 arpeggio [Db-Bb-F-Db] but resolving this with a G-natural, the 3rd of Eb7. So, one is quickly sideways, and then resolving to being consonant. Over Db7 in bars 5-8, the blues continues with a line that touches upon the the b3(Fb), a blue note, but also the 6th(Bb). In bar 6, I view this kind of line as being from Db°7, which concludes on the b3(E-natural) giving a sense of completion to the musical thought. The solo concludes with a brief reprise of Monk's main theme, and a unison hit on the and-of-2 on a Db7(13b5) voicing with Db on top.
All during the process of preparing arrangements and preparing to record, I am listening to these tunes and eventually the performances way too many times - at times, completely losing any objectivity that I might have had - if only for a moment. But now that there has been a bit of time to reflect upon just what we have done I have to say some things about the fire, precision and power of Marc Quiñones, Bobby Allende and Dennis Chambers. As "Epistrophy" opens "PATCHWORK," I am beginning to believe that this was absolutely the best choice that I could have made. In a sense, it ties the album to the basic group ideas that I have been involved in for decades - meaning that, for the most part, we have a transparent texture. But, when I listen to how Marc, Bobby and Dennis played - the muscle and sheer power of each response to something in Monk's melodic content, or something that I played while soloing - these kinds of things are elements that mean so much to me - but, in the end, you can't "ask" for people to do that - they either feel such things or they don't. The guys were simply superb!
Though it is not included in this solo transcription, I would want to add that Marc's musicianship is on full display throughout any and all of these recordings, and on this tune, in the [B] sections, I wrote out for Marc the keyboard punctuations that Rob Mounsey was going to be playing - details that are responding to aspects of Monk's melody - and when I listen to Marc's timbal flawlessly executing those hits, it is really breathtaking. It makes me wish that I could have been a great timbalero. But alas, I just have to appreciate the great players, like Marc, that I have been fortunate enough to have heard and then have worked with. During the recording, there were several moments that were so moving and emotional for me that I can tell you that I will never ever forget them for as long as I may continue to be alive. The fade of "Epistrophy," and the trading that developed between Dennis and Marc was so spontaneous and bespoke of their own musical friendship and trust that I was just stunned and overjoyed that it had happened. I have endeavored to preserve and present as much of it as I can on this disc. If, while listening to this fade, you are inspired to ask: "Geez, I wonder what happened after that?" Well, then in part, I have done my job. Thank you for listening.
It's been awhile since I felt inspired to dedicate an album to someone. But as "PATCHWORK" went from an idea, to a dream, to various forms of reality, one person often drifted through my thoughts and feelings, and that sentimentality stayed with me throughout the entire process. Though I had written a rather lengthy paean to Felipe Díaz Reyes at the TRIBUTES page at the site, I wanted his spirit to know that I had not stopped thinking about him for all this time since his passing. He would have been one of the first people with whom I would have shared the music from this recording. I always looked forward to his reaction after his first listening to something new. In addition to his enthusiasm, he was always a beacon of sanity about things - but, music, things related to Jazz, was always one of his great passions.
One of the other wonderful things that Felipe and I would do together is that he would help me to come-up with the appropriate Spanish subtitles for the tunes that needed them, but above all else, he would help to come-up with a subtitle for the album itself. Each of the last four albums has been tricky in that regard, and on at least the first one, I just chose to go my own way with it. For "PATCHWORK," I was not looking for a way to be too literal about that word. So, the album title in English refers to a collection of songs being put together in a way that forms a patchwork. But I wanted the Spanish subtitle to be in reference to Michel Granger's gorgeous cover image, and that to me is a painting that is a representation of a mixed medium process of art - collage, using real plants and, of course, painting. So quite by accident, I came upon Medio Mezclado, and to my eyes and ears, I liked it. Be assured that I consulted with a few other close friends, and one of them did not like this at all! A 2nd friend found it to be a bit curious, but he grew to accept it, and even like it - and just said, "Go with it!" And so, I did. I have no idea what Felipe might have said to me!!!
And so, as we all watch the passing of THE CD ERA right in front of our eyes, I don't even know how many people will ever actually hold this CD in their hands, let alone be able to look through or read the CD booklet that accompanies it - but, for anyone who has come to this page for a visit, I wanted to close by sharing what I wrote in the booklet as a dedication to Felipe. Que en paz descanse.
"The music on this album is dedicated to the memory of Felipe Díaz Reyes, who unexpectedly passed away on February 28th, 2018. Our friendship spanned 20 years, and in life's brightest and darkest moments he was always a voice of calm and reason. Not a day goes by when I do not miss his presence. He was one of the most kind and thoughtful people I ever had the pleasure of knowing. Love to his beloved wife, Isabel and daughter, Naima."
[Photos: John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk live at the Five Spot in New York City
Bobby Allende, Rubén Rodríguez, and Marc Quiñones Collage | Portraits by Richard Laird @ Sear Studios
Steve Khan and Dennis Chambers @ Sear Sound by Richard Laird
Oscar Hernández and Manolo Badrena]