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Between the Lines

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Album Review

Mike Stern does what he does very, very well. He has carved out a unique niche for himself among modern fusion guitarists, a vision that combines funk and R&B bass/drum grooves with skittish melodies often involving extended chord fragments. Stern's lead voice is one of the most distinctive in the genre as well, as his chorused and sometimes distorted tone is always prominently displayed. Stern is joined on this 1996 offering by frequent collaborator Bob Malach, a tenor player with a particular talent for laying screaming lines on top of smoking drum grooves as well as ably doubling and bringing to life Stern's often bookish and theoretical melodies. Completing the band are twin rhythm sections, consisting either of Dave Weckl and Jeff Andrews or Lincoln Goines and Dennis Chambers. Like many of Stern's recordings, the problems lie generally in the sameness of the arrangements and the relatively forgettable nature of some of these songs. Although they are all thoughtfully composed, they sometimes tend to run together a bit in the mind of the listener. Jim Beard's keyboard textures also could be done without, as they add a distracting sheen to the compositions. But there has always been this sort of tension in Stern's work between the obvious and the unexpected. Take, for example, "Lose the Suit," which features an extremely funky intro and a great Stern solo, as well as an extremely predictable bridge that almost sounds as if it could be the theme song to a long-running soap opera. Any lingering sense of treacle is dispelled once Stern kicks in the fuzz, however, and lays into the track. Not the best thing he's ever done, but quite good, and sure to please fans.

Biography

Born: 10 January 1953 in Boston, MA

Genre: Dance

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

Recognized as one of the finest electric guitarists among his peers, Mike Stern was born on January 10, 1953, in Boston, Massachusetts, but grew up in Washington, D.C. before returning to Boston to study at the Berklee School of Music. Stern was only 22 when he joined Blood, Sweat & Tears, for whom he played three years before signing on with Billy Cobham's jazz fusion outfit, which led to Stern's big breakthrough when Miles Davis enlisted him as guitarist for Davis' return from a five-year musical...
Full Bio
Between the Lines, Mike Stern
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  • $17.90
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Fusion
  • Released: 01 January 1996

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