Monday, September 07, 2009

Disc of the Day: Mike Stern, Big Neighborhood

Mike Stern's Big Neighborhood is one of the most appealing jazz-rooted guitar recordings of the year (so far).

Below is a version of my review, which appeared in Las Vegas City Life. Here's a link to it.

Mike Stern
Big Neighborhood
(Heads Up)

Journeyman guitar virtuoso Mike Stern, whose breakthrough came via early-80s fusion work with Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius, has also done time with rock and straight-ahead jazz heavy hitters. Last year, he released a DVD documenting his own quartet's fiery Paris show. When back home, he holds forth in the West Village at the intimate 55 Bar, where he's frequently joined by name musicians.

Stern, equally influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery, is adept at connecting with players from diverse musical backgrounds. That agility serves him well yet again on the guest-jammed Big Neighborhood.

He connects with Medeski Martin and Wood for the greasy-good funk jam "That's All It Is" and "Check One" and goes lick for lick with rock guitarists Steve Vai and Eric Johnson on the bracing title track and "6th Street," respectively.

Cameroon-born electric bassist and singer Richard Bona, a frequent Stern collaborator, drives buoyant West African grooves and provides wordless vocals on "Reach."

And rising-star double bassist Esperanza Spalding, an enchanting singer, dominates three grabbers -- bluesy bebop outing "Coupe De Ville," gorgeous ballad "Bird Blue" and the mellow "Song for Pepper." Stern's playing, throughout, is fluid and fluent, as unpredictable as it is intuitive.

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