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Big Neighborhood

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Big Neighborhood album cover
Big Neighborhood
6th Street
Song For Pepper
Coupe de Ville
Bird Blue
Moroccan Roll
Long Time Gone
Check One
That's All It Is
Hope You Don't Mind
Album Information

Total Tracks: 11   Total Length: 69:45

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Mike Stern (g), Bob Franceschini, Bob Malach (s), Randy Brecker (t), Jim Beard (p, kys), John Medeski (kys), Steve Vai (g, sitar g), Eric Johnson (g), Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona (b, v), Chris Wood, Lincoln Goines, Chris Minh Doky (b), Dave Weckl, Terri Lyne Carrington, Cindy Blackman, Lionel Cordew and Billy Martin (d).

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Consistently soulful master guitarist


Mike Stern's prolific output over more than three decades has been, for the most part, relatively less adventurous than many of his peers. But, like many who grow into a more mature musical style, his focusing on the material that is more in line with his own musical essence more than makes up for his unadventurous inclinations. This, like so many of his albums, retains a soulfulness that rises from the insights of a man who has lugged his guitar to the depths of personal despair and navigated a personally resonant route back to the surface, musically enriched for the journey. He remains one of the most integrated musicians of his genre and this album doesn't change the undeniable soulfulness of this hard-working music master.

They Say All Music Guide

Like all the legends he ever worked for or with, from Miles Davis to Jaco Pastorius, Billy Cobham to the Brecker Brothers, the five-time Grammy nominee has learned over the course of his 26-year recording career — 33 since he got his breakthrough gig with Blood, Sweat & Tears — something about the nuanced art of collaboration. Not only does it take a village to make a great, boundary-stretching jazz recording, the wild excursions on his second Heads Up date seem to be shouting, as it actually involves a whole Big Neighborhood. On this diverse 12-track set, whose styles range from blazing jazz fusion to African-tinged exotica and trippy Middle Eastern journeys, Mike Stern invites a few of his pals back who populated his similarly eclectic 2006 label debut Who Let the Cats Out? Especially significant is the renewed invitation extended to Richard Bona, whose rumbling bass and spirited vocalese bring authenticity to the highly spiritual African vibes of “Reach.” Looks like Stern’s got a little crush on the brilliant young bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, whose voice, he says, knocks him out. Pairing her with drum great Terri Lyne Carrington isn’t just a cool, girl-power endeavor. The two have genuine chemistry with the guitarist; “Song for Pepper” drifts dreamily with Spalding’s endearing vocalizations, and “Coupe de Ville” darts and swings playfully as Bob Malach’s sax and Stern’s strings weave through the rhythmic foundation forged by Spalding and Carrington. Finally, Stern swings the door open to a lot of fresh melodic and improvisational ideas via his jazz-rock cohorts Eric Johnson (playing it cool on the moody, soulful “6th Street”) and Steve Vai (wailing like crazy on the searing title track). He goes artsier with “jam band godfathers” Medeski, Martin & Wood, who help spin a wild blues-rock web on “Check One” and cool to a simmer on the more pop/rock-oriented “Check One.” There’s also an appearance by Stern’s old friend, Randy Brecker. This is one block party jazz fusion fans won’t want to miss in 2009! – Jonathan Widran

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