Mike Stern Who Let The Cats Out?
Published Feb 26, 2007Mike Stern can command respect based on his tutelage alone, never mind his track record, but lucky release number 13 sees the studied guitar technician distancing himself even further from the somewhat limiting fusion label that forever dogs his best efforts. This progressive collection of 11 original tracks speaks to collaboration over slick soloing, a Stern staple these days. Sterns natural progression from Berklee College under Pat Metheny through to B, S & T, Billy Cobham and Miles Davis helped build his players credibility on bedrock, yet Cats clearly demonstrates his maturity as a team player while the guests, including Roy Hargrove, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson, Dave Weckl, Meshell NdegéOcello and Cameroon bassist Richard Bona, set the stage for a true creative spark. As a result, youll find a blend of many voices that serve the many stand-out pieces, including the title track, which routes through bop territory, anointed with a killer Stern solo and driven by Hargroves fiery, full-tilt trumpet riffage. The stunningly simple ballad "Were With You melds Sterns acoustic guitar to Gregoire Marets mournful harmonica, while "Roll With It ups the funk factor thanks to Wootens influence and Bob Malachs sax. Boasting as many personalities as a cat has lives, Stern nonetheless delivers on all of them, lifting off the page on the somewhat uncharacteristic eight-minute-plus jam of "Blue Runway, which pitches soaring leads against a rhythmic wall of sound anchored by Jacksons bass and the always buoyant keyboards of Jim Beard. A satisfying collection of Sterns precision approach to his art form, it would be good to let these Cats get out more often. (Heads Up)