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Jazz - Released September 27, 2019 | Concord Jazz

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The first pairing between crossover jazz icons keyboardist Jeff Lorber and guitarist Mike Stern, 2019's Eleven is an engaging fusion album that balances each musician's distinct musical personality. While both artists got their start in the late 1970s playing a hybrid of jazz and electric rock, they each moved in slightly different directions while coming into their own in the '80s. As the leader of the Jeff Lorber Fusion, Lorber helped to define the sound of groove-oriented contemporary jazz and R&B. Conversely, Stern built upon his early years as a member of Miles Davis' ensembles, mixing post-bop and blues as one of the top virtuoso jazz guitarists of his generation. Together, they bring all of their decades-long experience to bear on Eleven playing a handful of original songs. Joining them is producer and longtime Yellow Jackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, as well as drummer Dave Weckl, guitarist Leni Stern, drummer Gary Novak, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and others. There are also nicely done horn parts peppered throughout by Ned Mann. What's particularly interesting on Eleven is that you can pick out how Lorber and Stern have adapted their distinctive styles for each tune. The opening "Righteous" is a breezy Lorber number centered on a hooky acoustic piano and guitar melody. Conversely, "Jones St." is a dark-toned blues-groover culled from Stern's 1997 album Give and Take. They split the difference on Lorber's "Rhumba Pagan," a driving modal piece with a funk underpinning that also features Stern's wordless vocal improvs. Equally compelling are cuts like the kinetic electro-bop of "Ha Ha Hotel" and the soulful ballad "Tell Me." Eleven is an inspired match-up that lives up to the work of both Lorber and Stern's expansive careers. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 8, 2017 | Heads Up

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During the 80s, Mike Stern was a five star jazz fusion expert. Knighted by Miles Davis—who took him along between 1981 and 1985—he also worked with Billy Cobham and Jaco Pastorius. The guitarist from Boston unleashed an impressive virtuosity and a rather violent playing that contrasted with the one from his peers. His career was punctuated with highs and lows and several struggles with drugs and alcohol… During the summer of 2016, Stern fell hard while at home and broke his two arms. The nerve endings of his right hand had even been damaged! But after a few passages under the knife, he was able to take his Telecaster back and learn to use it brilliantly again. This aptly named Trip is therefore the disc about a voyage towards resurrection. It’s an album that proves above all that his playing, his signature, his phrases are definitely there, still intact! Helped by a dream cast that notably includes bass players Victor Wooten, Edmond Gilmore and Teymur Phell; drummers Dennis Chambers, Lenny White, Will Calhoun and Dave Weckl; trumpet players Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney; keyboard player Jim Beard and saxophonist Bill Evans, Mike Stern pens an album which rivals those from his golden age, sometimes looking towards the Miles he knew, during the period of The Man With The Horn/Star People. Mostly, Trip shows him in various contexts, able of impressive guitaristic pyrotechnics as well as more introspective and tempered moments. Welcome back! © CM/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released September 8, 2017 | Concord Records

During the 80s, Mike Stern was a five star jazz fusion expert. Knighted by Miles Davis—who took him along between 1981 and 1985—he also worked with Billy Cobham and Jaco Pastorius. The guitarist from Boston unleashed an impressive virtuosity and a rather violent playing that contrasted with the one from his peers. His career was punctuated with highs and lows and several struggles with drugs and alcohol… During the summer of 2016, Stern fell hard while at home and broke his two arms. The nerve endings of his right hand had even been damaged! But after a few passages under the knife, he was able to take his Telecaster back and learn to use it brilliantly again. This aptly named Trip is therefore the disc about a voyage towards resurrection. It’s an album that proves above all that his playing, his signature, his phrases are definitely there, still intact! Helped by a dream cast that notably includes bass players Victor Wooten, Edmond Gilmore and Teymur Phell; drummers Dennis Chambers, Lenny White, Will Calhoun and Dave Weckl; trumpet players Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney; keyboard player Jim Beard and saxophonist Bill Evans, Mike Stern pens an album which rivals those from his golden age, sometimes looking towards the Miles he knew, during the period of The Man With The Horn/Star People. Mostly, Trip shows him in various contexts, able of impressive guitaristic pyrotechnics as well as more introspective and tempered moments. Welcome back! © CM/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released January 14, 2004 | Sunnyside

Combine the innovative guitar energy of legendary fusion master Mike Stern with old friends (bassist Richard Bona, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta) and new (saxman Kenny Garrett), and anything is bound to happen. But fans expecting raucous swinging and jamming the whole time may be surprised at the subtle lyricism and exotic explorations that define these times for their hero. Yes, his electric is crackling on the hypnotic opener, "Chatter," but it's in the crazy, exotic context of a Middle Eastern vibe inspired by Pakistani great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (look out, Eddie Vedder!). Jim Beard's jumpy piano, Colaiuta's wild, New Orleans groove, and Garrett's swirling lines provide great support. Once Stern and company have the listener's attention, they can become seductive with more intimate affairs like the Joe Zawinul-influenced "Silver Lining," which features an exotic falsetto vocal by Bona, a former Zawinul Syndicate member who also propels the tune with his increasingly muscular basslines. Bona adds the same touch in a gentler way to the lush romance of "I Know You," featuring a soft-spoken harmony line by guest star banjo great Béla Fleck. This sequence of tunes sets the tone of the rest of the disc, which mixes more Khan-flavored gems (the colorful singalong "Mirage," featuring vocals by Elisabeth Kontomanou), soft ballads, and a sexy midtempo funk number that (gasp!) might translate to the smooth jazz format. Another highlight is the punchy bebop number "Remember," dedicated to Stern's longtime collaborator the late Bob Berg. Perhaps the only drawback is having Garrett on hand but only featuring him on three numbers. © Jonathan Widran /TiVo

Jazz - Released August 21, 2009 | Heads Up

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Like all the legends he ever worked for or with, from Miles Davis to Jaco Pastorius, Billy Cobham to the Brecker Brothers, the five-time Grammy nominee has learned over the course of his 26-year recording career -- 33 since he got his breakthrough gig with Blood, Sweat & Tears -- something about the nuanced art of collaboration. Not only does it take a village to make a great, boundary-stretching jazz recording, the wild excursions on his second Heads Up date seem to be shouting, as it actually involves a whole Big Neighborhood. On this diverse 12-track set, whose styles range from blazing jazz fusion to African-tinged exotica and trippy Middle Eastern journeys, Mike Stern invites a few of his pals back who populated his similarly eclectic 2006 label debut Who Let the Cats Out? Especially significant is the renewed invitation extended to Richard Bona, whose rumbling bass and spirited vocalese bring authenticity to the highly spiritual African vibes of "Reach." Looks like Stern's got a little crush on the brilliant young bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, whose voice, he says, knocks him out. Pairing her with drum great Terri Lyne Carrington isn't just a cool, girl-power endeavor. The two have genuine chemistry with the guitarist; "Song for Pepper" drifts dreamily with Spalding's endearing vocalizations, and "Coupe de Ville" darts and swings playfully as Bob Malach's sax and Stern's strings weave through the rhythmic foundation forged by Spalding and Carrington. Finally, Stern swings the door open to a lot of fresh melodic and improvisational ideas via his jazz-rock cohorts Eric Johnson (playing it cool on the moody, soulful "6th Street") and Steve Vai (wailing like crazy on the searing title track). He goes artsier with "jam band godfathers" Medeski, Martin & Wood, who help spin a wild blues-rock web on "Check One" and cool to a simmer on the more pop/rock-oriented "Check One." There's also an appearance by Stern's old friend, Randy Brecker. This is one block party jazz fusion fans won't want to miss in 2009! © Jonathan Widran /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 15, 2006 | Heads Up

More than two decades into his solo career, Mike Stern, on his 13th album as a leader, continues to prove why he's earned so many "Best Jazz Guitarist" honors through the years. Stern's skills are undeniable, and new ideas never fail to materialize when he's at work. But what makes Stern stand out from the pack of virtuosic guitar technicians is that he always insists on letting his, and his support team's, abilities serve the music, not vice versa. On Who Let the Cats Out?, Stern and his well-chosen crew spill out lick upon impressive lick, but they never get so carried away with themselves that they lose sight of the tune's purpose and structure. Grandiosity is never a factor here, although there are dozens of occasions to applaud these musicians' chops. Richard Bona, the Cameroonian bassist, has worked with Stern before, but here he is given an expanded role, appearing on four tracks and contributing his falsetto-style, scat-like vocals to three of them: On "All You Need," one of the prettiest tracks on the record, Bona provides an uplifting sensuality. He also shines on "We're with You," a ballad featuring Stern on acoustic guitar. Devoid of pyrotechnics, this song of support to those hurting utilizes synth-derived orchestration and a mournful, quiet tone to bring home its emotionalism. Drummer Dave Weckl -- who alternates throughout with the excellent Kim Thompson -- is another major pacesetter here: On "Texas," the often-overdriven Weckl restrains himself, his no-frills drums and Me'Shell NdegéOcello's creative bass chasing Stern's skronky slide while Gregoire Maret's harmonica provides the necessary borderland flavor. The title track, a quasi-swing/bop showpiece, finds Stern -- peeling out some of his most blazing, how'd-he-do-that? riffs -- and trumpet great Roy Hargrove trying to outdo each other and calling it a draw. Stern's soloing throughout the record is, in fact, ceaselessly imaginative: Whether within a total funk exercise like "Roll with It," which borrows Victor Wooten from the Flecktones for bass duties and spotlights sexy sax from Bob Malach, or the moody ballad "KT," on which Stern's guitar escalates in intensity alongside Jim Beard's soulful organ, Stern finds his place within the song's architecture, then rises several levels above what's required of him to present something unexpected and rewardingly original. Only on "Blue Runway," the eight-and-a-half-minute closer, with Anthony Jackson taking over the bass, do the players allow themselves to approach tediousness. Overextending themselves as they shift into hyperdrive, they turn the piece into a jam for its own sake. An anomaly, it doesn't by any means detract from the album's overall quality, though it does allow it to end on a disappointingly self-absorbed note. © Jeff Tamarkin /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 27, 2019 | Concord Jazz

The first pairing between crossover jazz icons keyboardist Jeff Lorber and guitarist Mike Stern, 2019's Eleven is an engaging fusion album that balances each musician's distinct musical personality. While both artists got their start in the late 1970s playing a hybrid of jazz and electric rock, they each moved in slightly different directions while coming into their own in the '80s. As the leader of the Jeff Lorber Fusion, Lorber helped to define the sound of groove-oriented contemporary jazz and R&B. Conversely, Stern built upon his early years as a member of Miles Davis' ensembles, mixing post-bop and blues as one of the top virtuoso jazz guitarists of his generation. Together, they bring all of their decades-long experience to bear on Eleven playing a handful of original songs. Joining them is producer and longtime Yellow Jackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, as well as drummer Dave Weckl, guitarist Leni Stern, drummer Gary Novak, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and others. There are also nicely done horn parts peppered throughout by Ned Mann. What's particularly interesting on Eleven is that you can pick out how Lorber and Stern have adapted their distinctive styles for each tune. The opening "Righteous" is a breezy Lorber number centered on a hooky acoustic piano and guitar melody. Conversely, "Jones St." is a dark-toned blues-groover culled from Stern's 1997 album Give and Take. They split the difference on Lorber's "Rhumba Pagan," a driving modal piece with a funk underpinning that also features Stern's wordless vocal improvs. Equally compelling are cuts like the kinetic electro-bop of "Ha Ha Hotel" and the soulful ballad "Tell Me." Eleven is an inspired match-up that lives up to the work of both Lorber and Stern's expansive careers. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Contemporary Jazz - Released June 8, 2012 | Heads Up

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Jazz - Released September 14, 1999 | Craft Recordings

Mike Stern is a preeminent guitarist for two key reasons: One, he can play all styles very well and with equal command; and two, he plays very well with all other players. He always shows great respect for those with whom he is playing and gives them each the time and space to develop their musical ideas. Stern displays these two qualities in abundance on Play. Several notable guests join Stern and his core band for this release. Guitarists John Scofield and Bill Frisell and drummer Dennis Chambers each team with Stern on several tracks. If you enjoy straight-ahead jazz, listen to Stern and Scofield on the title track, or mix in Bob Malach's tenor sax on "Outta Town." If you like your guitar music slightly more spacious and lyrical, try Stern and Frisell on the hypnotic "Blue Tone" or the pensive "All Heart." Finally, if you want to turn up the heat and move into some rock/funk-influenced fusion, then check out the groovy "Tipatina's," the bold rocker "Link," or the intensely funky "Big Kids." It is no surprise, based on his other work, that Chambers, in particular, gives the band a kick in the musical pants inspiring bassist Lincoln Goines to enjoy the ride. Play is an outstanding guitar album from the highly accomplished and incredibly versatile Mike Stern. It is highly recommended. © Brian Bartolini /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 27, 1996 | Craft Recordings

Mike Stern does what he does very, very well. He has carved out a unique niche for himself among modern fusion guitarists, a vision that combines funk and R&B bass/drum grooves with skittish melodies often involving extended chord fragments. Stern's lead voice is one of the most distinctive in the genre as well, as his chorused and sometimes distorted tone is always prominently displayed. Stern is joined on this 1996 offering by frequent collaborator Bob Malach, a tenor player with a particular talent for laying screaming lines on top of smoking drum grooves as well as ably doubling and bringing to life Stern's often bookish and theoretical melodies. Completing the band are twin rhythm sections, consisting either of Dave Weckl and Jeff Andrews or Lincoln Goines and Dennis Chambers. Like many of Stern's recordings, the problems lie generally in the sameness of the arrangements and the relatively forgettable nature of some of these songs. Although they are all thoughtfully composed, they sometimes tend to run together a bit in the mind of the listener. Jim Beard's keyboard textures also could be done without, as they add a distracting sheen to the compositions. But there has always been this sort of tension in Stern's work between the obvious and the unexpected. Take, for example, "Lose the Suit," which features an extremely funky intro and a great Stern solo, as well as an extremely predictable bridge that almost sounds as if it could be the theme song to a long-running soap opera. Any lingering sense of treacle is dispelled once Stern kicks in the fuzz, however, and lays into the track. Not the best thing he's ever done, but quite good, and sure to please fans. © Daniel Gioffre /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 2, 1997 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1986 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released October 9, 1992 | Craft Recordings

Guitarist Mike Stern, best-known for playing rock-oriented fusion and in more commercial settings, surprised many listeners by recording an album dominated by standards. Actually, there are three originals included among the 11 pieces, but Stern also digs into such songs as "Like Someone in Love," "Moment's Notice," Chick Corea's "Windows," and "Straight No Chaser." Among Stern's sidemen on this fairly straight-ahead but adventurous set are trumpeter Randy Brecker, Bob Berg on tenor, and keyboardist Gil Goldstein. This little-known release is well-worth acquiring. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 8, 1988 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released February 1, 1989 | Craft Recordings

This is a fairly typical Mike Stern fusion date, featuring his rocking guitar on seven of his pieces. Stern is joined by his usual sidemen -- tenor saxophonist Bob Berg, keyboardist Jim Beard, electric bassist Jeff Andrews, either Peter Erskine or Dennis Chambers on drums and percussionist Manolo Badrena -- and plays with plenty of fire, yet a good amount of restraint. Michael Brecker is a guest on "Chief," jamming on his fairly anonymous-sounding EWI. A decent effort, easily recommended to fans of the more adventurous rock guitarists. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released August 30, 1991 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released November 4, 2001 | Craft Recordings

Most of Mike Stern's albums have been 100 percent instrumental; as a rule, he doesn't use vocalists because his guitar does all of the "singing." But Voices is an exception -- a highly engaging and memorable exception. This surprising and totally unexpected effort finds a 48-year-old Stern using wordless vocals in a manner that brings to mind fellow fusion guitarists Pat Metheny and Al DiMeola. Think of Metheny on Letter From Home and Still Life (Talking), or DiMeola on Orange and Blue, and one will know the type of approach that Stern is going for this time. While the wordless vocals that Stern uses on Voices add a lot to the album, his guitar is still the focal point. This isn't the type of project in which the leader brings in an acclaimed jazz singer like Dianne Reeves or Kitty Margolis and features her prominently on standards -- that isn't what he was going for. Ultimately, the vocalists who Stern employs (who include Arto Tuncboyaciyan and Elizabeth Kantomanou) are there to serve and compliment his guitar. If Voices were a cake, the vocalists would be the icing; the album still would have been meaningful even without them, but there's no doubt that they add a lot to it. Voices, which contains some of Stern's most lyrical and melodic playing, is full of world music influences. African and Spanish elements are incorporated, and Brazilian music is an especially strong influence. Going back to the Metheny and DiMeola comparisons, this album's world music influences will inevitably inspire comparisons to similar albums by those fellow fusion guitarists. But Stern is always his own man and his guitar playing never fails to sound distinctive -- Voices is most definitely a Mike Stern session. It's also one of the finest albums in his catalog. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Jazz - Released February 15, 1994 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released September 15, 2014 | David Bixler Music

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Jazz - Released September 8, 2017 | Heads Up

During the 80s, Mike Stern was a five star jazz fusion expert. Knighted by Miles Davis—who took him along between 1981 and 1985—he also worked with Billy Cobham and Jaco Pastorius. The guitarist from Boston unleashed an impressive virtuosity and a rather violent playing that contrasted with the one from his peers. His career was punctuated with highs and lows and several struggles with drugs and alcohol… During the summer of 2016, Stern fell hard while at home and broke his two arms. The nerve endings of his right hand had even been damaged! But after a few passages under the knife, he was able to take his Telecaster back and learn to use it brilliantly again. This aptly named Trip is therefore the disc about a voyage towards resurrection. It’s an album that proves above all that his playing, his signature, his phrases are definitely there, still intact! Helped by a dream cast that notably includes bass players Victor Wooten, Edmond Gilmore and Teymur Phell; drummers Dennis Chambers, Lenny White, Will Calhoun and Dave Weckl; trumpet players Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney; keyboard player Jim Beard and saxophonist Bill Evans, Mike Stern pens an album which rivals those from his golden age, sometimes looking towards the Miles he knew, during the period of The Man With The Horn/Star People. Mostly, Trip shows him in various contexts, able of impressive guitaristic pyrotechnics as well as more introspective and tempered moments. Welcome back! © CM/Qobuz