Wed September 27, 2006
Guitarist Mike Stern to be featured on Last Call
Veteran guitarist creates richly satisfying disc for progressive jazz fans
By Chris Cooke
Omaha, Nebraska – Saturday night?s Last Call will feature music from one of the finest guitarists on today's jazz scene. Mike Stern is back with an outstanding recording: Who Let the Cats Out?
On Stern's thirteenth release as a leader, the award winning three-time Grammy nominee continues to blur the boundaries between jazz, funk, blues and rock with eleven unique originals.
"This record is a return to more instrumental playing, more blowing," says Stern. "In some ways it's straight ahead, but filtered through my rock and blues influences. I'm still interested in incorporating vocals, so I wanted Richard Bona to sing on my record. I composed the tunes thinking about which musicians would work best for each track. It seemed organic, and I think worked out well."
Who Let the Cats Out? features bassists Richard Bona (who handles vocals on two tracks), Anthony Jackson, Meshell Ndegeocello, Chris Minh Doky and Victor Wooten, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bob Malach, drummers Dave Weckl and Kim Thompson, harmonica player Gregoire Maret, and keyboardist/producer Jim Beard.
The album title is a double entendre, according to Stern. "Leni, my wife, loves cats," he explains. "We've got four cats, and you know how cats can get. They're always running around and checking stuff out - they're always playing. The title fits the music, too. When we made this album there was a really playful vibe. I love when musicians have fun with the music, when they play from the heart and when they get room to do what they do best."
Born on January 10, 1953, in Boston, MA, Stern got his start as a guitar player with Blood, Sweat & Tears at the age of 22. He then toured with Billy Cobham for a year, and it was at one of the legendary drummer's gigs in New York City that Miles Davis first heard Stern. After moving to New York City, he was recruited by Davis to play a key role in his celebrated comeback band of 1981. From 1983 to 1984, he toured with Jaco Pastorius' Word of Mouth band and in 1985 returned to Davis' lineup for a second tour of duty that lasted close to a year. In the summer of 1986, Stern went out on the road with David Sanborn and later joined an electrified edition of Steps Ahead. Stern made his debut on Atlantic Records in 1986 with Upside Downside. From 1986 through 1988, he was a member of Michael Brecker's quintet and later joined a reunited Brecker Brothers Band, appearing on 1992's Return of the Brecker Brothers.
Stern's acclaimed 1993 release, Standards (And Other Songs), led to him being named Best Jazz Guitarist of the Year by the readers and critics of Guitar Player magazine. He followed that up with 1994's Is What It Is and 1996's Between The Lines, both of which received GRAMMY nominations. In 1997, Stern recorded Give And Take, and won the Orville W. Gibson Award for Best Jazz Guitarist that year. Stern's next release was a six-string summit meeting with colleagues Bill Frisell and John Scofield that was appropriately titled Play. Voices (2001), his first foray into vocal music, earned Stern his third GRAMMY nomination. He released These Times for the ESC label in 2003.
"I've been very fortunate to have played with lots of great musicians like Joe Henderson, Miles, Jaco Pastorius, Mike Brecker and Dave Sanborn, just to name a few," says Stern. "It seems to me what they all have in common is that they're wide open to so many different kinds of music, and no matter what they play they put their heart and soul in it."
Listen to music from Mike Stern on Saturday night's Last Call.
Chris Cooke is the host of Jazz in the Afternoon and Last Call on KIOS-FM.