Contemporary jazz gets hot when Mike Stern enters the room. His sessions are filled with adrenaline and made to last. This program of original compositions features an all-star crew of contemporary artists who provide the guitarist with a colorful palette. Excitement flows from every bar—and indeed every measure—of this exciting music.
”Tumble Home” features Bob Franceschini on tenor in a powerful, sizzling romp with Stern's guitar. “KT” follows with a muted Roy Hargrove trumpet in a smoother affair that nevertheless finds Stern wailing ferociously, allowing his guitar to carry the band away in an uplifting cry. When Hargrove re-enters with an open horn, the band takes on some of the best emotional output of the session, recalling some of the best music from one of the guitarist’s very first gigs: Blood, Sweat and Tears.
”Good Question” drives at a blazing fast tempo that allows the guitarist to flash his fiery technique, while “Language” slows the pace with Richard Bona’s unique bass and wordless vocal themes to let things mellow out. The slow ballad “We’re With You” features the harmonica of Gregoire Maret and finds Stern showering his audience with smooth jazz trappings. “Leni Goes Shopping,” one of the high points of the album, follows with a hip look at the way rhythm and melody affect our moods; Stern plays in a quartet with Jim Beard, Chris Minh Doky and Kim Thompson.
”Roll With It” and “Who Let the Cats Out?” sparkle with intensity as Stern pushes jazz/rock to the limits of anxiety. Who needs caffeine? ”Texas” and “Blue Runway” find the guitarist stretching out with passion on his sleeve, while “All You Need” circles the band with gospel. These days, since album tracks are sometimes marketed as single downloads, it’s nice to know which ones stand out. On Who Let the Cats Out?, however, every one is a winner.
Track listing: Tumble Home; KT; Good Question; Language; We’re With You; Leni Goes Shopping; Roll With It; Texas; Who Let the Cats Out?; All You Need; Blue Runway.
Personnel: Mike Stern: guitar; Roy Hargrove: trumpet; Bob Franceschini, Bob Malach: tenor saxophone; Gregoire Maret: harmonica; Jim Beard: piano, organ, synthesizer, clavinet; Chris Minh Doky, Meshell Ndegeocello, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson: bass; Richard Bona: bass, vocals; Dave Weckl, Kim Thompson: drums.
Jim Santella - allaboutjazz.com