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Kindness of Strangers

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Album Review

Whenever a jazz instrumentalist takes up non-jazz singing, he/she is bound to be denounced as a sellout — just ask George Benson, George Duke, and Patrice Rushen, all of whom were routinely lambasted in the jazz press when they made commercial singing a high priority. But commercial doesn't necessarily mean bad, and those artists continued to provide quality music even though instrumental jazz was no longer their primary focus. Similarly, Leni Stern first made her mark as a guitar-playing jazz instrumentalist, but favors pop/rock and pop-folk singing on Kindness of Strangers. While her instrumental albums often inspired comparisons to Pat Metheny, the comparisons that this CD brings to mind include Joni Mitchell, Julia Fordham, and Sarah McLachlan. Even for those who have a very liberal and broad definition of the word jazz, this isn't a jazz album — it's mildly jazzy pop/rock, pop-folk, and adult alternative, and Stern's role is that of a singer/songwriter who happens to play guitar. So don't expect a lot of extended, improvised guitar solos. What one can expect is thoughtful, if imperfect, singing. Although Stern grew up in Germany, her English is generally quite good — not perfect, but quite good and easy to understand. As a vocalist, Stern doesn't beat listeners over the head; her approach is subtle and understated, although she still gets her points across on reflective originals like "Carry Me" and "I Call You." While Stern is a superb guitarist, she is merely decent as a singer. But a fantastic voice isn't necessary for a meaningful vocal album, and Kindness of Strangers is a meaningful vocal album — one that falls short of exceptional but is always likable and sincere.


Born: 28 April 1952 in Germany

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Leni Stern, who has received more recognition for her composing than her guitar playing, has managed to carve out her own musical personality despite being married to fellow guitarist Mike Stern (a potentially dominant influence). She began classical piano lessons when she was six, but was much more inspired a few years later when she discovered a guitar in the attic and taught herself to play jazz. Stern's early years were actually spent as an actress in her native Germany, featured on a national...
Full bio
Kindness of Strangers, Leni Stern
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Pop
  • Released: 07 August 2001

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