Give and Take, Atlantic CD 83036-2, 1997
Stern guitar lessons
Mike Stern returns to the straightahead work he demonstrated on
Standards (1992) and, like that record, he proves again that
hes one of the most imaginative and exciting of contemporary guitarists.
Hes already shown that hes more than a match for most of the
fire-breathing fusion guitar players out there, but he doesnt relax or
retreat on this album. The eleven cuts feature seven originals and covers of
Coltrane ("Giant Steps"), Hendrix ("Who Knows") and the
bebop standard "Oleo." Tellingly, the two ballads, "Everything
Changes" and "Rooms," are particularly fine.
Hes got stellar company on this session: drummer Jack DeJohnette swinging
his butt off, John Patitucci playing upright bass only, and guest appearances
that sound like a reunion of Berklee Class of 80-something: Michael
Brecker, David Sanborn and Gil Goldstein.
Sterns got a richly chorused tone that could be overdone in the wrong
hands, but comes off as a singular and absolutely correct voice in his hands.
You have to dig the way he gets right to the point of a song, then starts to
bend and hammer to get the outside notes when he solos. This guy has chops, no
doubt about it. But he comes across to casual listeners, too. I was playing
this album at work and a woman stopped by to hear more. Shes not usually
a jazz fan, but she dug this music.
A lot of guitarists know about Mike Stern. This record will let them know that
he cant be typecast as a fusion slinger and hes certainly not one
of the Joe Pass wannabees. It should also introduce him to a wider audience who
will dig his sound and his songs. He deserves it. Gerry