Reza Khan

 
 

Bio

Reza Khan - Producer and Composer

In an era where emerging instrumental artists often seek success by copycatting the greats or watering down their deeper passions to fit in the mainstream, Reza Khan stands out as a true musical citizen of the world, delightfully transcending easy genre trappings with his freewheeling blend of infectious pop, jazz and global influences. Even after three well received indie recordings that hit the Jazz Albums charts – Painted Diaries (2008), A Simple Plan (2011) and The Dreamwalker (2013) - the Bangladesh born and raised, NYC based composer/guitarist is still delightfully straddling the classical Indian and Bengali music of his youth with contemporary funk grooves and the free form energetic sounds of Western rock and jazz fusion.

Boldly admitting, despite his success and growing popularity and airplay, that he “still doesn’t know where I fit in,” Khan’s inspiring journey of self-discovery continues with the alternately intimate and explosive new full length album Wind Dance. Its opening track and lead single “Ride” features a high energy, electric guitar and sax driven rock fusion sound reminiscent of The Rippingtons. Carrying the listener along through a series of colorful moods throughout the collection’s 14 tracks, Khan creates the perfect counterpoint to this track with the dreamy and reflective easy swaying tune “Ride Home.”

Over the past few years, as Khan has built a loyal East Coast fan base and performed at NYC hotspots like BB Kings, Drom and Zinc Bar, he has attracted the attention of numerous contemporary jazz heavy hitters eager to help him develop his vision. His recordings have featured contributions from saxophonist Andy Snitzer (who provides emotional thrust on “Ride”), trumpeter Rick Braun, Pat Metheny bassist Mark Egan, Acoustic Alchemy’s Miles Gilderdale, sax/flutist Nelson Rangell and keyboardist Philippe Saisse. Wind Dance includes dynamic interaction with all of those performers, in addition to Marc Antoine, whose snappy, playful flamenco guitar joins with Rangell’s spirited flute harmonies and Saisse’s whimsical piano and synth improvisations to create soulfully exotic magic on “Villa Rosa.”

While the guys he calls “heavy hitters” ensemble alongside Khan to develop 11 of his original compositions, the guitarist is also committed to opening fresh creative floodgates for the members of his longtime live band – bassist Ray Dienneman, saxophonist Nigel Innes, drummer Bill Donnelly and guitarist Brian Taylor. He asked each to bring a composition into the sessions for Wind Dance. Dienneman and Khan wrote the summery, easy flowing funk driven “Sunset Highway,” while Taylor penned (and Khan arranged) the sensual and mystical ballad “East Bound” (so named for its hypnotic sitar touches). Touches of mysticism, Eastern instrumentation and earthy exoticism also infuse the dreamy and soulful “Bridge of Angels,” written by Donnelly and Khan and featuring Innes’ lush soprano sax.

At the heart of Khan’s music is a series of spirited questions he likes to ask listeners who are hearing him for the first time: “What do you think about the style? Would you like to hear a lot more Bangladeshi-Indian or would you prefer something more Western, more fusionist? Do you like to see the growth and continuum of this music to go in all different directions in terms of world and eclectic sounds of would you like to see it boxed into the smooth jazz genre?”

While the 14 tracks of Wind Dance flash brilliantly in all of those distinct directions, Khan ties them together with an overarching, image rich spiritual journey that helps him explain the meaning of the album title. Most of his previous recordings follow a conceptual theme and create a narrative along the way. “I was at my country house in Pennsylvania in the fall, watching leaves falling and a twister of leaves of all different shapes swirling round,” he says. “They brought me into a feeling of total nostalgia and I began drinking wine as the leaves were blowing away. Later while I was driving and watching more leaves blowing off the road, I had this sensation that perhaps these leaves were more than just nature taking its course, but mystical creatures, like wind fairies that could help me connect with people from the other side.

“Songs like ‘Ride’ are about the upbeat side of that journey, while ‘Ride Home’ which basically takes the same chord structure but creates a different mood, reflect the many facets of the story,” Khan adds. “The images in this scenario play into the songs perfectly, with the wintry vibe of ‘December’ touching upon my feelings at seeing the skeleton imagery of trees without leaves. Each song is part of that vision. When you start looking at the wind dancers around you, you can get lost in a trance for a few hours – and when you’re done, you’ve been so caught up that it’s as if time was stolen from you. The journey of Wind Dance feels like an instantaneous, fast run, and it’s that kind of deeper, all consuming emotional connection I want to make with the listeners.”   

Khan’s musical journey provides the perfect cultural parallel to the work he does for his fascinating and important “day job” as a program manager for the United Nations, where he contributes to peace operations and multiple conflict operations throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Prior to that, Khan, who graduated from Queens College with a degree in computer science, worked as a software consultant for numerous high level companies. Over the years, his calling as a humanitarian has led him everywhere from Asia  (where his introduction to poverty and human rights abuses inspired him to work for the UN) to Angola, where he was a member of a peacekeeping force in that war torn country. In the late 90s, he lived in South Africa, where he performed and composed music and also married and started a family.

Born into a musical family in what is now Bangladesh, Khan and his brothers received a firm grounding in Indian classical music from their father, an instrumentalist, composer and poet. While he was trained in Indian percussion from the time he was eight or nine, Khan’s musical world changed forever when his brother brought home a bootleg copy of Frampton Comes Alive. Khan’s introduction to American pop/rock – including Eagles, Grand Funk and America – led him to put aside his training on tabla, sitar and sarod and embrace the guitar as his primary instrument. Later influences include Pat Metheny (who “made me want to make myself better and better musically”), The Rippingtons, Acoustic Alchemy and the musical genres of Brazil (bossa nova, samba, tropicalia). Khan formed his first band, Yours Sincerely, in the Bangladeshi capital of Dakha. The group’s lone album, Members Only, sold an incredible half a million copies, but Khan soon set his musical pursuits aside to develop his burgeoning career in international relations.

One critic, Anthony Priatt from Fly in the Wall Media, perfectly captured the ways Khan’s two worlds intersect in his review of Painted Diaries, which was inspired by the guitarist’s learning about the horrors in Darfur; at the time, Khan also created a companion website (also called Painted Diaries) to promote peace in the region. Priatt wrote, ““REZA KHAN: Can You Save Darfur with a Guitar? You Can Try...With a Band of All-Stars from Mbalafunk, David  Byrne’s Band, Funky Poets, Paul Simon and Tower of Power…Putting Brush Strokes on PAINTED DIARIES.” 

“My musical career fulfills me in different ways while driving home the reality that music is the one force that can truly unite people from all races and geographic locations,” says Khan. “In situations where I walk into serious meetings, before I talk about anything related to peace, politics and security, I ask, ‘What do you like listening to?’ Three years ago, I was in Lebanon talking to somebody who represents Hezbollah, who are notoriously difficult to deal with. Instead of starting with talk of negotiations, I spoke to them about our mutual love for Arabic blues. Music has the power to bring worlds together beyond our wildest imaginations, and as an independent artist still excited about exploring so many different forms, I am finding that the potpourri of sounds still smells and feels good!”