Steve Khan squeezes from the guitar a tough, stringy sound shaped by a love for urban electric blues, and his solo lines get a rock-energy lift from the artful insertion of throaty chords. So at first glance you might think yourself in the presence of something other than a full-fledged jazz guitarist; in fact, the mainstream jazz audience found very little of note in Khan’s contributions to the mid-70s success of the Brecker Brothers band, or in the several albums he recorded with his neo-fusion quartet Eyewitness in the 80s. But that all changed with last year’s Let’s Call This (Mesa Blue Moon), a meaty trio date that proved just as impressive for its repertoire–lesser-known tunes by Thelonious Monk, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter–as for the shaded modernism of its full-tilt performances. Khan actually essayed the jazz tradition on disc once before, in 1980, on a somewhat dreamy solo album called Evidence; but this latest effort finds a more mature guitarist playing music that’s far more focused. Khan today rivals John Scofield for his portmanteau approach to jazz guitar, distilling both musical history and the instrument’s evolution into a compact and savorous style. The improvisations have an often deceptive simplicity born of their admirable straightforwardness; even at slow tempos they seem to hurtle along, snatching the listener up in their wake. Tonight and Saturday, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Tan.