Mike Stern, best-known for playing rock-oriented fusion and in more commercial settings, surprised many listeners by recording an album dominated by standards. Actually, there are three originals included among the 11 pieces, but Stern also digs into such songs as "Like Someone in Love," "Moment's Notice," Chick Corea's "Windows," and "Straight No Chaser." Among Stern's sidemen on this fairly straight-ahead but adventurous set are trumpeter Randy Brecker, Bob Berg on tenor, and keyboardist Gil Goldstein. This little-known release is well-worth acquiring.
Mike Stern always has displayed a large be-bop influence in both his
playing and compositions so this Cd was inevitable. What we end up
hearing on this disc is the closest thing to seeing Mike Stern's band
live until he actually releases a live disc. The playing is amazing and
he adds new life to some standards. Although all of the covers were
written for piano or saxophone, Mike shows that guitar is a great medium
for Jazz. Among the highlights are "There is no greater Love" and
"Straight No Chaser". There isn't a dissapointing moment on the entire
disc. The one noticable difference between this one and the others is
the sound of Mr. Stern's guitar. Unlike the other discs ,where he will
incorporate a distorted tone during a part of a song, the whole Cd is
played with a clean tone. However, this does not stop Mike from
displaying non-jazz influences in his playing. Mike Stern doesn't play
with the unbelievable speed of other guitarists (Holdsworth,Lane,Etc.)
but he does have a unique style and nobody puts together phrases better
than him. For anyone that would like to learn another way to approach
the instrument this is a great place to start. Actually this Cd is great
for any jazz/fusion lover because there are many lessons to be learned
on this recording.
Stern's 'Standards and Other Songs' originally came as a disappointment
to me, though I'm ashamed to admit it. The issue, I think, was that I
expected the same sort of 'balsy' distorted funk-bebop of, say,
'Play'--a great album in and of itself--yet, 'Standards' is much more
subdued than any other Stern outings I can think of. No distortion.
Quiet. Little audible harmonic accompanyment to many of the solos.
great thing about this album, then, is the way Stern really comes
through as the killer bebopper that he is. Close listeners will hear
the harmonic movement imbedded in the lines and not miss another comping
instrument (there is a keyboard on a few tracks, but it is quite
subdued and quiet).
Though, I confess, I think 'Between the Lines'
and 'Give and Take' are my favorites of Stern's, 'Standards' offers
something that these don't. Much like Metheny's Trio outings, it gives
one a different perspective and a different flavor--and a wonderful one
at that. It's technically impressive, grooving, and it also helps to
solidify Stern as one of the best bebop guitarists out there today.
A few other points
For those who've seen Mike at the 55 Bar in NYC or wish to, 'Standards'
is much more in line with that sort of playing than his other work,
save perhaps 'Give and Take'.
* Those who are not well-versed in
Bird, Trane, etc--ie, rock fans getting into jazz via Stern, Chick, etc
(as I was when I first got the album at 16) will probably not "get it"
first time out; conversely, close listening will speed that transition
Again, it is a very quiet album--indeed, perhaps this is my biggest
complaint; not only is the playing subdued (not a problem), but
recording volume is not especially high.
Mike Stern - Standards and Other Songs
Stern is a fusion guitarist,
but here turns his attention to jazz standards. This CD shows them
played in a way I had never before heard them played on the guitar. His
playing is fleet and his lines run nimbly ... there is an irrepressible
momentum that makes every bar compelling and propels the music onward.
There is great subtlety of dynamic control too, and beauty in the tracks
'Circles' and 'Peace'. (His tone is lightly chorussed, an effect that
usually does not appeal to me, but in Stern's handsk it fits perfectly -
he has made this sound his own.) It changed forever my way of thinking
about jazz guitar: here are standards, played in a non-standard way,
with virutosity and without cliche. A totally fresh and essential jazz
Guitarist Mike Stern, who has earned accolades and awards for playing high-energy rock-oriented fusion on albums such as "Give And Take" and "Play", did an about-face in 1992 by releasing a CD of. jazz/bebop standards. Standards (And Other Songs) also includes three original numbers (the 'other songs'), but for the most part, Stern uses a lightly-chorused, clean guitar sound on such classics as Miles Davis' "Nardis" and "Jean Pierre", John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice", Chick Corea's "Windows" and Thelonius Monk's "Straight No Chaser". Stern recruited a number of more-than-able musicians to accompany him through the adventurous material, including trumpeter Randy Brecker, sax man Bob Berg, and keyboardist/producer Gil Goldstein. Standards (And Other Songs) may have received little fanfare upon its initial release, but it is a CD well worth acquiring for a fresh, virtuosic and guitaristic spin on these compositions.
06:37 Like Someone In Love
09:12 There Is No Greater Love
05:46 L Bird
04:40 Moment's Notice
06:47 Lost Time
05:26 Straight No Chaser
01:44 Jean Pierre
Mike Stern - Guitar
Al Foster - Drums
Jay Anderson - Acoustic Bass
Ben Perowsky - Drums ("Lost Time" and "Nardis")
Larry Grenadier - Acoustic Bass ("Lost Time" and "Nardis")
Randy Brecker - Trumpet
Bob Berg - Saxophone
Gil Goldstein - Keyboards, Production