Upside Downside continues to be one of my all-time favorite jazz fusion guitar CD's.
Mike Stern's FIRST solo album recorded in 1983 and only ever released in Japan as an LP, issued for the first time on CD over twenty years later. This was also recorded three years before Mike's second solo effort, 'Upside Downside.' in 1986. The album 'Neesh' is also known as 'Fat Time,' which was Mike's nickname, given to him by Miles Davis, while Mike was in his band, saying he always played in 'Fat Time.' 'Neesh' is the mythical land referred to in the movie, 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.' Hiram Bullock produced and plays guitar on Mike's instrumental solo debut.
Guitarist Mike Stern's music has often been a little difficult to classify, featuring strong improvisations, the sound and power of rock, and elements of funk, R&B and sometimes pop. For his second recording as a leader, Stern is joined by either Bob Berg or Michael Brecker on tenor, keyboardist Jim Beard, electric bassist Jeff Andrews, drummer Peter Erskine and percussionist Don Alias; Don Grolnick sits in on organ during "No Notice." The music (seven Stern originals) ranges from the rhythmic to the more sophisticated and features plenty of the leader's high-powered guitar.
Bunny Brunel is best-known as a virtuosic electric bassist who is featured in high-quality fusion settings. This particular recording is quite a bit different for Brunel is heard exclusively on acoustic bass, performing advanced jazz standards including pieces by Wayne Shorter, Steve Swallow, and Herbie Hancock along with two of the bassist's originals, "Stella by Starlight," Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo," and "Someday My Prince Will Come." Guitarist Mike Stern has plenty of solos, pianist Billy Childs gets in his spots, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta is fine in support, but Brunel clearly controls the music. On the concluding "Twelve Bars for Leberstraum," Chick Corea guests on piano.
Another murderous album.It contains one Mike's best songs ever, Common Ground. Other high points of this album are If You Say So which shows again the versatility of the man and some acoustic excellence in Sandbox.
Combine the innovative guitar energy of legendary fusion master Mike Stern with old friends (bassist Richard Bona, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta) and new (saxman Kenny Garrett), and anything is bound to happen. But fans expecting raucous swinging and jamming the whole time may be surprised at the subtle lyricism and exotic explorations that define these times for their hero.