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Stern, Mike: Big Neighborhood

Here's another one from 2009 that somehow avoided me, and if I'd had a chance to check out this latest scorcher from jazz-fusion guitar veteran Mike Stern, it would have easily made my best of the year list. Stern should be well familiar to guitar fans, as the guy honed his chops with Blood, Sweat, & Tears, Billy Cobham, and of course Miles Davis before launching a solo career back in the late 1980's. He's since released a slew of solid solo albums, and this latest, Big Neighborhood, is no exception. This time around, he's channeled his inner rock demon, moving away slightly from the straight jazz and world sounds from his last few releases.

You quickly hear this inspiration on the opening title cut, as Stern unleashes a barrage of sizzling rock licks and solos alongside guest gun-slinger Steve Vai, in what turns out to be a daring, jazz-rock shoot 'em up of epic proportions, with Vai's acrobatic leads battling Stern's fiery, distored fusion runs every step of the way. Mike returns to his trademark smokey jazz on "6th Street", supported by some sultry Hammond organ courtesy of Jim Beard and guest guitar from Eric Johnson, and the upbeat "Reach" has some Latin & World music flavors, and features the nimble bass lines & vocals from Richard Bona, as well as the talented stick work of Dave Weckl. Other highlights include the sizzling guitar/sax tradeoffs on "Coupe De Ville", the lush "Bird Blue", featuring dreamy vocals from bassist Esperanza Spalding, the dramatic "Moroccan Roll" (with Vai again on 2nd guitar), the hazy, lazy blues-jazz-rock vehicle with Johnson that is "Long Time Gone", and the two complex & moody scorchers with Medeski, Martin, & Wood, "Check One" and "That's All It Is". There's even some classic jazz sounds on the closing number "Hope You Don't Mind", which features trumpet legend Randy Brecker.

All songs on the CD were written by Stern, and he seems to show no limits as far as his songwriting goes. There's a little something for everyone here; jazz, blues, fusion, and fiery rock. Mike Stern is not only one of our greatest guitar treasures, but he's a songwriter of tremendous ability, and judging by the all-star cast on Big Neighborhood, famed musicians are lining up at the door to record with this guy.

Tremendous stuff.

Track Listing

  1. Big Neighborhood 7:40
  2. 6th Street 7:49
  3. Reach 5:29
  4. Song For Pepper 5:43
  5. Coupe de Ville 4:35
  6. Bird Blue 5:42
  7. Moroccan Roll 7:04
  8. Long Time Gone 7:51
  9. Check One 7:37
  10. That's All It Is 4:50
  11. Hope You Don't Mind 5:18

Added: March 18th 2010
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1808
Language: english

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