On a shelf in the living room of Steve Khan’s cozy apartment on New York’s Upper West Side, there’s a row of boxes. Inside the boxes are big stacks of manila envelopes. They contain the individual charts for every piece Khan has recorded in his 40-year career as a bandleader, organized by album. No PDFs converted from Sibelius or Finale files here; Khan wrote them all by hand, one for each instrument on any given session.
“If you can keep a chart to three pages, that’s ideal,” says the 70-year-old guitarist with the trademark mustache. He flips through the bass parts for 2016’s Backlog (Tone Center), the most recent in a chain of releases on which he’s established his voice in harmonically advanced, guitar-centric Latin jazz. “To me,” Khan says, “giving the guys you’re playing with a set of charts like this is a sign of respect, so they’re not coming into a project with no idea what’s going on. Some players appreciate it.” He pauses and grins. “Some may think I’m a control freak!”