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.
Ace session guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. has done some great playing on many other people's dates, but his own albums have tended to be faceless fusion and instrumental R&B dates. This 1990 release was the first that came close to favorably showcasing his eclectic nature and guitar skills.
Ginger Baker's taken the long road to a position at the height of the jazz drums family. He spent half a decade playing jazz in England before making it very, very big with Cream. Then he nearly vanished, playing drums all the while but without the fan base Cream afforded him. Then came his two head-turning jazz trio CDs Going Back Home and Falling Off the Roof, both of which featured the bass and guitar of Charlie Haden and Bill Frisell, and which won accolades and more. Following those outings is this collection from Baker's Denver Quintet to Octet (or DJQ2O), which employs a host of the finest jazzers from Colorado's biggest city. Saxophonist Fred Hess and trumpeter Ron Miles are the best known of the bunch, but the entire band plays strong postbop. The group can vamp in a minor key with strong feeling, and it can get ferociously gritty, as on "Daylight," which gets drenched in distorted electric and pedal steel guitars at once. This is a jazz ensemble that should be on the road constantly, playing to ravaged crowds; its members are talented in every way.
There are a whole lotta musicians who would kill for a resumé like that of peripatetic drummer Ginger Baker: member of Cream and Blind Faith, bandmate of Fela Kuti, survivor of a drum showdown with Elvin Jones, olive farmer, polo player, born-again jazzer (his '95 trio recording, Going Back Home, certified his abilities).