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.
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.
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.
Like all the legends he ever worked for or with, from Miles Davis to Jaco Pastorius, Billy Cobham to the Brecker Brothers, the five-time Grammy nominee has learned over the course of his 26-year recording career – 33 since he got his breakthrough gig with Blood, Sweat & Tears – something about the nuanced art of collaboration. Not only does it take a village to make a great, boundary-stretching jazz recording, the wild excursions on his second Heads Up date seem to be shouting, as it actually involves a whole Big Neighborhood. This CD was up for a Grammy as “Best Contemporary Jazz Instrumental Album” in 2010.