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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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MIKE STERN

Who Let the Cats Out?

Heads Up HUCD 3115

 

 

 
1. Tumble Home
2. KT
3. Good Question
4. Language
5. We're With You
6. Leni Goes Shopping
7. Roll With It
8. Texas
9. Who Let The Cats Out?
10 All You Need
11. Blue Runway
Mike Stern - Guitar
Bob Franceschini – Tenor sax (tracks 1-4, 9-11)
Jim Beard – Piano, organ, synthesizer, clavinet
Chris Minh Doky – Bass (tracks 1, 6, 9)
Kim Thompson – Drums (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10)
Roy Hargrove – Trumpet (tracks 2, 9)
Meshell Ndegeocello – Bass (tracks 2, 8)
Richard Bona - Bass, vocals (tracks 3-5, 10)
Dave Weckl – Drums (tracks 3, 5, 8, 11)
Gregoire Maret – Harmonica (tracks 5, 8)
Victor Wooten – Bass (track 7)
Bob Malach – Tenor sax (track 7)
Anthony Jackson – Bass (track 11)

This CD opens with one of the most dynamic tracks I have ever heard, as Mike Stern’s darkly mysterious guitar is thrust along by the phenomenal drumming of Kim Thompson. The second track shows how Stern can make his guitars sound very different from one another, as this has a touch of Peter Frampton about the clangorous guitar tone, with stratospheric trumpet from Roy Hargrove. Good Question changes the mood again, with a slight calypso feel, while Language puts Richard Bona’s voice in unison and counterpoint with his own bass guitar and Mike’s guitar (a device also used by Pat Metheny).

We’re With You is a quiet, delicate melody picked out subtly by guitar and the keyboards of the multi-talented Jim Beard (who also produced the album). It makes a potent contrast with the technoflash of several other tracks. Gregoire Maret’s evocative harmonica comes in to underline the track’s poignancy.

Bob Malach’s tenor sax adds to the funkiness of Roll With It. Texas has a sense of country-and-western, with Gregoire Maret’s harmonica again adding to the atmosphere. The title-track is a hustling mixture of furious jazz-funk and swinging four-in-the-bar, ending with a cheeky afterthought from Kim Thompson (a drummer who promises great things, and who so impressed Mike Stern that he gave track 2 the title KT in her honour).

All the tunes on the album are Stern’s own compositions and they display the wide range of his powers: combining technical brilliance with a feeling towards melody: not something you can say about all modern jazzers. Stern uses a variety of musicians who all seem ideal for the purpose: as he says, "I composed the tunes thinking about which musicians would work best for each track". This is already on my list of Albums of the Year.


Tony Augarde

 



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