Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mike Stern: New Morning, The Paris Concert

Heads Up International
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 8.6.09
Buy DVD: New Morning, The Paris Concert

Mike Stern is one of the best-known fusion-jazz electric guitarists of his generation.

He got his start with Blood, Sweat & Tears at the age of 22, played with Billy Cobham's fusion group for a few years, then joined Miles Davis' “comeback band” for a three year stint. Stern also has played with David Sanborn and the Brecker Brothers, and has toured with multiple groups as a leader.

Oh, and he's a five-time Grammy Award nominee.

This 2008 concert took place before a capacity crowd at the New Morning Club in Paris. The almost two hour set consisted of eight songs, all written by Stern. The genre is pure fusion: If you're a fan, you'll be delighted; if not, you'll turn down the volume and then eject the DVD.

There's no doubt about the quality of the musicians. Stern is a technical master of the electric guitar, and his compositions are exciting and innovative; bassist Tom Kennedy is his equal and, because he uses an electronic instrument, he can create solo lines at tempos that would be impossible to attain with an acoustic bass.

Dave Weckl, the finest big-band drummer working today, proves to be equally proficient with this smaller unit; saxophonist Bob Franseschini melds wonderfully with everybody else, providing excellent ensemble and solo lines.

As always is the case with fusion bands, all would be lost in the event of a power failure. The sustained notes and phrases made possible by electronics are a key factor in the success of this jazz style. The ability to sustain — and echo — notes and phrases, and to control volume readily, results in exciting music.

The panning camera shots of the French audience clearly reveal how excited they were to be part of, the happening.

That said, this is a band you'll either love or hate; there won't be any in-between.

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