Mike Stern is Back with ‘Trip’
About a year ago Mike Stern, one of the highest regarded, most successful jazz guitarists alive today, had a terrible accident. He broke both shoulders when he tripped running across a street in Manhattan. Trip, his latest release, is his stunning return after multiple surgeries and a lot of gumption. More than just a comeback, this album is about Mike’s career and his musical partnerships which Mike loving refers to ‘as a trip’.
Feeling sufficiently fortified, Stern and his stellar crew of sidemen – many of whom go back with him to the ’80s – went into Spin Studio in Long Island City between January and March of 2017 to record his 17th album as a leader. The guitarist’s sly, self-deprecating sense of humor comes across in the title of the album, Trip, as well as on individual tracks like ‘Screws’ (he initially had 11 screws put into his arm following his first surgery) and ‘Scotch Tape and Glue’ (his current method for holding onto the pick).
A powerhouse outing, Trip, features such longstanding colleagues as trumpeters Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney, saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bill Evans, the latter a bandmate in Miles Davis’ ‘comeback band’ of 1981, bassists Victor Wooten and Tom Kennedy and drummers Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers and Lenny White. Produced by pianist-keyboardist Jim Beard, Stern’s frequent producer going back to 1991’s Odds or Evens, Trip is a brilliant showcase of what the acclaimed guitarist does best – riffing on post-Miles funk-fusion (‘Trip,’ ‘Screws,’ ‘Watchacallit’), urgent swingers (‘Half Crazy,’ ‘Scotch Tape and Glue,’ ‘B Train’) and lyrical ballads (‘Emilia,’ ‘I Believe You’). His wife Leni Stern guests on two tracks, playing the n’goni (a three-stringed African instrument) on the buoyant ‘Emilia,’ which also features Gio Moratti on backup vocals, and the uplifting ballad ‘I Believe You.’ Other performers on Trip include percussionists Arto Tuncboyaciyan and Elhadji Alioune Faye, Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun and bassists Teymur Phell and Edmond Gilmore, both of whom currently work with Stern on his regular Monday and Wednesday night residency at the 55 Bar in the heart of Greenwich Village.