3. Out Of The Blue
4. As Far As We Know
5. Blues For Al
7. You Never Told Me
8. Half Way Home
11. All Over The Place
Mike Stern - Guitar, acoustic nylon string guitar, slide guitar
Jim Beard - Rhodes piano, piano, synthesiser, Hammond B3
Anthony Jackson - Contrabass guitar
Richard Bona - Vocals, bass
Kenny Garrett, Bob Malach, Chris Potter, Bob Franceschini - Sax
Esperanza Spalding - Acoustic bass, vocals
Randy Brecker - Trumpet
Leni Stern - Rhythm wah wah guitar, N'goni Ba
Dave Holland, Victor Bailey, Victor L. Wooten, Will Lee, Tom Kennedy - Bass
Dave Weckl, Al Foster, Keith Carlock, Kim Thompson, Lionel Cordew - Drums
Tim Keiper - Percussion
The first paragraph of the sleeve-note twice describes Mike Stern as "eclectic". This is a pity, as it was exactly the adjective I was going to use at the start of this review. Eclecticism was a characteristic of his previous albums Who Let the Cats Out? and Big Neighborhood, and it's equally in evidence here. As in those albums, Mike composed every track and they display a wide range of styles and interests. The album title seems extremely appropriate.
The opening AJ is a jazz-rock piece dedicated to bassist Anthony Jackson, who plays a contrabass guitar - which has six strings, giving it a wider range. But the focus is mainly on Mike Stern's wailing guitar and Chris Potter's outspoken tenor sax. Jazz-rock is also present in such tunes as the title-track and Flipside, which both feature Bob Malach's funky tenor sax.
Cameroon is the first of several African-flavoured tunes. It features Richard Bona's wordless vocals - appropriate, as Bona was born in Cameroon. The effect is very like some of Pat Metheny's work, which often uses similar vocals and the sort of ecstatic guitar sound that Mike Stern employs here. Dave Weckl's jazz-rock drums manage to convey an African beat. Out of the Blue starts with an African atmosphere, thanks to Leni Stern (Mike Stern's wife) playing the N'goni Ba, a stringed instrument from Mali. But the track soon develops into a piece of galloping jazz-fusion with forceful solos from Mike Stern and Randy Brecker. The other African piece on the album is Light, with a hustling Afro rhythm and Richard Bona again providing atmospheric vocals and sturdy bass.
The mood quietens with As Far As We Know, a benign ballad with Esperanza Spalding supplying wordless vocals, although her intonation is occasionally suspect. Mike Stern transfers to the acoustic nylon string guitar to play a moving solo. The album's other ballad is You Never Told Me, with Stern again on acoustic guitar.
The rhythm section on You Never Told Me includes bassist Dave Holland and drummer Al Foster. Foster is honoured by Blues for Al, where Mike Stern bends plenty of notes. OCD has the same line-up. It is based on the chords of Cole Porter's I Love You but its jagged shape recalls Thelonious Monk.
I haven't yet mentioned Jim Beard, who not only produced the album but plays keyboards very effectively on every track. In fact every musician on this disc is a star and they work together to deliver a memorable album which once again shows that Mike Stern is a highly talented musician - and very eclectic.