has amassed an almost cult-like following during the course of his 2-decade plus career, and his latest release for Atlantic Jazz, Voices
, shows that he has no intention of slowing down. Voices
is a strong departure from Stern's past recordings which tended to be more funk/fusion and guitar heavy.
Old and new fans will appreciate this compositionally powerful record, sung through the voices of bassist/vocalist Richard Bona
(the swiss army knife of the contemporary jazz scene and newest member of the new Pat Metheny Group), Elizabeth Kontomanou
and Philip Hamilton
, plus a host of long-time Stern players and special guests Michael Brecker
and Arto Tuncboyacian
Stern's strength (aside from being a killer guitar player) has been his ability to craft a recording around a theme, and he tastefully and beautifully shifts the spotlight here; keeping his rock-fueled bebop fretwork in plain view for all to hear while focusing on some of his best penned work to date. The result is a truly enjoyable record that may very well earn Stern fans further outside the scope of the musician/guitar player realm.
Rich and beautiful vocal harmonies weave together tracks such as One World
, Wishing Well
, giving the record an almost world-beat feel, but Stern's thumbprint never gets lost; the guitar work is still fiery but tasteful and considerate of the song. Some new soundscapes and moods are introduced in songs like Leni's Smile
, and the world-beat theme is further reinforced by the concluding track, Way Out East
, (featuring Michael Brecker) which possesses a clearly Middle Eastern feel.
Overall, this CD is a testament to the fact that Mike Stern's guitar work can only be superseded by his evolution as a composer. Many kudos and recommended very highly.