A bona fide fusion guitar hero from the ’70s, Steve Khan has more recently re-invented himself as a practitioner of fluent, warm-toned, bop-informed single-note lines and deft fingerstyle chordal work. He hinted at a new Latin influence on last year’s The Green Field, which also featured drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist John Patitucci and percussionist Manolo Badrena (a member of Khan’s under-recognized and cutting edge Eyewitness band from the ’80s).
That same stellar rhythm section is back for this superb outing, which pushes further into Afro-Cuban territory with a hip 6/8 guaguanco version of Monk’s “I Mean You,” a rumba rendition of “Have You Met Miss Jones,” his soulful bolero “Face Value,” which features bright, lyrical flugelhorn playing by longstanding colleague Randy Brecker, and a cha-cha version of McCoy Tyner’s “Hymn Song.” Khan also investigates some intriguingly “out” realms, as on a faithful read of the obscure Ornette Coleman tune from 1960, “Mr. and Mrs. People,” and on his expansive “El Faquir,” a world-music amalgam which blends the colors of Badal Roy’s tablas and Geeta Roy’s tamboura with Ralph Irizarry’s timbales and Roberto Quintero’s guiro and maracas, along with Bob Mintzer’s bass clarinet.
Elsewhere, the guitarist turns in a beautiful rendition of the ballad “You’re My Girl,” written by his famous father Sammy Cahn and songwriting partner Jule Styne. And the core quartet indulges in some heightened, no-holds-barred swinging on Tyner’s “Blues For Ball.”