It's no coincidence that the songlist for guitarist Steve Khan's new record includes Herbie Hancock's "Riot" and Wayne Shorter's enigmatic classic "Nefertiti." Both are culled from Miles Davis' Nefertiti one of the most atmospheric yet visceral albums in the annals of jazz. Khan himself is, on some level, a mystery man. He loves space surrounding the notes and the sculpting of a vibe in his music.|
The Green Field, an invitingly lean and evocative session mostly in a quartet with Jack DeJohnette, bassist John Patitucci, and percussionist Manolo Badrena (with occasional cameos from percussionists Ralph Irrizary and Roberto Quintero) is one of Khan's most vibe-generating records to date. The guitarist is in no hurry to impress or stun with empty-calorie chops. With his signature tone and touch - a chorus-caked clean sound through which notes sometimes stab and sometimes ooze - Khan's own playing arrives in cryptic, lyrical, and angular statements, suggesting as much as they state outright. Chromatic smears, staircase intervals, and compact crescendos invite comparisons to saxists like Shorter, in whose fluid band Patitucci has recently been expanding an opening up his vision.
The song set includes a few tasty Khan originals, including the spare theme of the title track, which stretches out into a free-spirited, expansive 18-minute opus. That track features DeJohnette's subtly rumbling drum energy and Khan's floating phrases and seeping chords. Originals aside, though, some of the album's most memorable moments involve hearing what Khan's unique voice does, blending melody and chordal colors, on themes by Ornette Coleman ("Congeniality"), Thelonious Monk ("Eronel"), and a sideways run at the standard "You Stepped Out of a Dream." Unlike the guitarists who tend to play rough or trickily, Khan plays like he stepped out of a dream - or is about to enter one. We get the same feeling on the receiving end.
- Josef Woodard (JAZZIZ | June '06)