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Mike Stern
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 he’s one of the most imaginative and exciting of contemporary guitarists. He’s already shown that he’s more than a match for most of the fire-breathing fusion guitar players out there, but he doesn’t 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.

He’s 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.

Stern’s 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. She’s 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 can’t be typecast as a fusion slinger and he’s 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 Lenocker

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.