Mike Stern, Big Neighborhood
Jazz/fusion über-guitarist Mike Stern throws caution to the wind, assembles a highly unlikely cast of A-listers, and aggressively submerges himself in their divergent timbres and styles for kicks. How unlikely a cast? On “Moroccan Roll,” Stern’s ’90s bassist Lincoln Goines holds it down in an Eastern modality while Dave Weckl plays a quasi-Latin rock groove as Stern and guitarist Steve Vai duel overhead. The second track from that can’t-look-away fantasy band occurs just after three sweet jazz numbers anchored by young phenom Esperanza Spalding, and before two funk workouts featuring Chris Wood on acoustic and electric, with Medeski and Martin along for the ride. Then there’s the South African-flavored burner “Reach,” with Richard Bona ripping his trademark finger-staccato, and a traditional swing blues with Chris Minh Doky on upright. Unfortunately for us low-enders, the closest thing there is to a bass solo on this disc is Goines digging into the classic Stern rock/swing groove of “Long Time Gone,” but that doesn’t make it any less fun to listen to, let alone to imagine conversations that might have taken place during tracking.
- Bryan Beller