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  • Jonathan Widran

REZA KHAN, Imaginary Road

A socially conscious force in global jazz fusion, Reza Khan has a long-established history of blazing fresh trails, pushing limits and finding unique ways to redefine what is possible in contemporary jazz. Working with some of the genre’s most revered sidemen, the Bangladesh born and raised, NYC based composer/guitarist has, since his 2009 debut Painted Diaries, taken a freewheeling approach to creating his dynamic, infectious yet unpredictable fusion of pop, jazz, soul and world music influences.

Having scored his first Billboard Top Ten single with “Drop of Faith” from his critically acclaimed fifth album Next Train Home, the most logical approach moving ahead would have been a slick, in the pocket urban/smooth jazz session. Instead, helping us navigate our way through the darkness, anxiety and steep challenges of the past year, Khan graces us with an empowering way forward along a fascinating, twist and turn filled Imaginary Road.


As the guitarist takes us from the kaleidoscopic rays of sunshine infusing “Waiting for the Sky” to an at times bumpy but ultimately hopeful journey of limitless landscapes on the closing title track, he follows in his long tradition of creating a multi-faceted theme driven musical narrative. Like Pat Metheny, Khan’s music – best defined as globally conscious contemporary jazz - is adventurous in its fusion of jazz and global rhythms, vibes and aesthetics, yet always includes bright, infectious melodies and intoxicating grooves that make at least several songs on each album ideal for smooth jazz airplay.


Three tracks that stand out as combining high end envelope pushing and irresistible radio friendliness are “Waiting for the Sky,” “Broken River” and “Imaginary Road.” "Waiting for the Sky” is the ultimate expression of optimism despite the darkness, a yearning for breakthrough despite the weariness of a long hard journey. A tune that flows effortlessly from a lush ballad vibe to snappy soul with a sensual light funk feeling of sway and seduction, “Broken River” spotlights Khan’s tender and heartfelt melodic acoustic flow but throws a crackling curve into the mix mid-stream (pun intended!) with guest Miles Gilderdale’s crying and crackling electric guitar cool.


Reflecting not only the momentum of Khan’s career and musical evolution but our own resolve as we break through to more expansive emotional and spiritual horizons, his “Imaginary Road” takes a dynamic turn into a true drive time jam, elevated by Matt King’s wild piano magic, richly detailed soundscaping, David Mann’s unbridled sax and even a swelling choir of wordless vocals in the outro.