On his new album, Parting Shot, the underrated guitarist Steve Khan continues exploring a Latin sensibility and reunites his ’90s-era Eyewitness quartet of bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Dennis Chambers and percussionist Manolo Badrena, adding Marc Quinones (timbales) and Bobby Allende (congas). The graceful rhythm players allow Khan to apply clave rhythms to a couple of Ornette Coleman compositions—the opening stop-and-start arrangement of “Chronology,” a buoyant cover of “Blues Connotation”—and a sashaying facelift of Thelonious Monk’s “Bye-Ya,” but a few of the guitarist’s seven compositions speak with an even better accent. His opening chord patterns on “Change Agent” form the eight-minute track’s infectious hook, and Badrena’s chanted vocals provide a soothing contrast to the intermittent percussive fury within the inside-out groove of the closing “Just Deserts.”
But the CD’s centerpiece is the 10-minute “Maria Mulambo.” The track opens with Khan playing a James Brown-like rhythmic pattern (think “Doin’ It to Death”), but the slow, strutting cadence features an insistent Afro-Cuban undercurrent in 6/8. Badrena sings the verses in Portuguese, and the multiple percussionists provide both persistent clatter and verbal chatter, resulting in a street-party feel. Such topography is propelled throughout the disc by the sonically exciting rhythm section of Jackson and Chambers, who seem to inspire Badrena toward his Weather Report heights of the late 1970s. If this is indeed the parting shot for Khan’s half-decade-long Latin-jazz phase, he and his associates have made a very strong closing statement.