Monday, September 25, 2017

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - September 25, 2017 #jazz

TW - LW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 2 - Maysa - "Love Is A Battlefield" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
2 - 1 - Chuck Loeb - "Unspoken" - (Shanachie Records)
3 - 8 - U-Nam - "The Essential Collection" - (Skytown Records)
4 - 4 - Boney James - "Honestly" - (Concord Music Group)
5 - 3 - Paul Brown - "One Way Back" - (Woodward Avenue)
6 - 14 - Najee - "Poetry In Motion" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
7 - 5 - Gerald Albright - "G" - (Bright)
8 - 7 - Nathan East - "Reverence" - (Yamaha Entertainment Group)
9 - 6 - Rick Braun - "Around The Horn" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
10 - 9 - Brian Culbertson - "Funk!" - (BCM Entertainment)
11 - 13 - David Benoit & Marc Antoine - "So Nice!" (Shanachie Entertainment)
12 - 10 - Lindsey Webster - "Back To Your Heart" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
13 - 15 - Michael McDonald - "Wide Open" - (BMG)
14 - 12 - Brendan Rothwell - "Time On My Hands" - (Brendan Rothwell)
15 - 11 - Cindy Bradley - "Natural" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
16 - 18 - Richard Elliot - "Summer Madness" - (Heads Up/Concord)
17 - 37 - Norman Brown - "Let It Go" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
18 - 22 - Jonathan Fritzen - "Ballads" - (Nordic Night Records)
19 - 17 - Nick Colionne - "The Journey" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm")
20 - 21 - Michael Lington - "Second Nature" - (Copenhagen Music)

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Selina Albright’s successful “Conversations” makes Christmas Tour with Koz “Possible” #jazz

  Multi-format radio play, favorable reviews and a busy concert calendar boost the R&B-jazz singer’s debut album.
It is mid-September yet R&B-jazz singer Selina Albright has already booked her holiday season travel plans thanks in part to a pair of buzzworthy singles at multiple radio formats along with enthusiastic reviews for her debut album, “Conversations,” which was issued on the Golden Rays Music label. Albright was invited to embark upon a 24-city U.S. concert tour as the featured vocalist on the Dave Koz 20th Anniversary Christmas Tour during which the smooth soul singer will share the spotlight with the charismatic saxophonist and his fellow contemporary jazz luminaries David Benoit, Rick Braun and Peter White. The tour kicks off November 24 in Atlanta and wraps December 23 in Cerritos, California.   
Even before “Conversations” dropped, Albright, who co-produced three songs and wrote the album’s candid and confessional lyrics that she describes as “like my own therapeutic diary,” captured attention and charted at smooth jazz outlets globally with the lead single, “Eat Something,” an empowering mid-tempo R&B ode to self-love that celebrates comfort and security in a romantic relationship by packing on a few pounds. The song, bolstered by slick guitar licks from Kay-Ta Matsuno, immediately connects with listeners – especially women – who called radio stations to request the cut that premiered nationally on SiriusXM Watercolors’ Dave Koz Lounge. “Eat Something” has now crossed over to urban adult contemporary (UAC) radio - including at SiriusXM’s UAC programming – and is gobbling up airplay.  
While the first single continues its chart ascent at UAC radio, smooth jazz programmers have embraced the follow-up, “Possible,” another affirmation of self-acceptance. Albright explains, “I wrote ‘Possible’ with hope of finding that one person who would make me feel loved and accepted just as I am. Now that I’m married to that person, I've found that it’s equally important - if not most important - to accept myself. That’s when the light bulb truly came on for me! My heart and mind opened to new possibilities, and I was able to experience the freedom and fearlessness I was put on this earth to achieve. I believe we all have to peel our own layers of doubt away and be true to ourselves in order to live our lives to the fullest. This is why the (accompanying) music is minimal for much of the song. I needed the focus to be on the message so that listeners could celebrate - not suppress - their zest for life.”
The daughter of multiple Grammy nominee and contemporary jazz sax titan Gerald Albright, Selina grew up in the company of her father’s colleagues, but has relied on the power and grace of her vocal gifts to pave her own way. For more than a decade, she has toured and recorded with a wide array of notables in jazz, R&B and EDM. In recent years, she’s been featured on Benoit’s A Charlie Brown Christmas Tour and is fond of touring during the holiday season.
"I really love touring during Christmas because I see nothing but smiles from the stage. It's as if barriers can finally come down for the season, and we can all relax and focus on what's important: friends, family, love and music!” said the radiant and shapely Albright, who continues her Conversations Tour until the Christmas tour commences. "Dave Koz, Peter White, Rick Braun and David Benoit have been part of my adoptive musical family for years. So for me, the Koz Christmas Tour will be a special reunion when we can celebrate each other's talents while on stage together. This is one tour that I know the people will feel the joy and love in the music! And, of course, music aside, the food enthusiast in me cannot wait to enjoy the local cuisine in each city we visit."
“Conversations” was produced by Chris “Big Dog” Davis, James “JRob” Roberson and Albright, and contains performances by Gerald Albright, White, Matsuno, Randy Ellis and David P. Stevens. Below are excerpts from a sampling of album reviews:     
“One of the brightest new stars in that crossover galaxy somewhere between contemporary jazz and R&B.” – Smooth Jazz Therapy
“Selina blossoms fully as a transcendently soulful, urban jazz/R&B singer-songwriter.” –
“Albright brings her brand of fiery, soul-reaching music right to where you live, keeping you riveted to her charm. This is her debut album, but those of us who’ve witnessed her live knew what to expect when she finally unleashed this beauty.” – The Smooth Jazz Ride
“Albright channels her R&B side that shares her heart on both sleeves. Backed by production from James Roberson and Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis, Albright’s flexible pipes and songwriting unquestionably steals the spotlight.” – The Urban Music Scene
“Selina delivers her own therapeutic diary, in a soft soul and sultry jazz setting.”- Keys & Chords
“Selina pushes the envelope in R and B with a stylish nod to jazz with a really identifiable vocal sound.” – The Hollywood Times
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Monday, September 18, 2017

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - September 18, 2017 #jazz

TW - LW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Chuck Loeb - "Unspoken" - (Shanachie Records)
2 - 2 - Maysa - "Love Is A Battlefield" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
3 - 3 - Paul Brown - "One Way Back" - (Woodward Avenue)
4 - 11 - Boney James - "Honestly" - (Concord Music Group)
5 - 4 - Gerald Albright - "G" - (Bright)
6 - 5 - Rick Braun - "Around The Horn" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
7 - 6 - Nathan East - "Reverence" - (Yamaha Entertainment Group)
8 - 15 - U-Nam - "The Essential Collection" - (Skytown Records)
9 - 8 - Brian Culbertson - "Funk!" - (BCM Entertainment)
10 - 7 - Lindsey Webster - "Back To Your Heart" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
11 - 13 - Cindy Bradley - "Natural" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
12 - 14 - Brendan Rothwell - "Time On My Hands" - (Brendan Rothwell)
13 - 10 - David Benoit & Marc Antoine - "So Nice!" (Shanachie Entertainment)
14 - 9 - Najee - "Poetry In Motion" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
15 - 27 - Michael McDonald - "Wide Open" - (BMG)
16 - 12 - Roberto Tola - "Bein' Green" - (Roberto Tola)
17 - 16 - Nick Colionne - "The Journey" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm")
18 - 30 - Richard Elliot - "Summer Madness" - (Heads Up/Concord)
19 - 19 - Ben Tankard - "Full Tank3:CanTANKerous - Ben-Jamin Music Universal)
20 - 24 - Carol Albert - "Fly Away Butterfly" - (Carol Albert Music)

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Smooth Jazz Chart - Weekly Top 20 - September 11, 2017 #jazz

TW - LW - Artist - Album - (Label)
1 - 1 - Chuck Loeb - "Unspoken" - (Shanachie Records)
2 - 2 - Maysa - "Love Is A Battlefield" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
3 - 3 - Paul Brown - "One Way Back" - (Woodward Avenue)
4 - 6 - Gerald Albright - "G" - (Bright)
5 - 5 - Rick Braun - "Around The Horn" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
6 - 4 - Nathan East - "Reverence" - (Yamaha Entertainment Group)
7 - 11 - Lindsey Webster - "Back To Your Heart" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
8 - 12 - Brian Culbertson - "Funk!" - (BCM Entertainment)
9 - 19 - Najee - "Poetry In Motion" - (Shanachie Entertainment)
10 - 9 - David Benoit & Marc Antoine - "So Nice!" (Shanachie Entertainment)
11 - 13 - Boney James - "Honestly" - (Concord Music Group)
12 - 10 - Roberto Tola - "Bein' Green" - (Roberto Tola)
13 - 14 - Cindy Bradley - "Natural" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm)
14 - 14 - Brendan Rothwell - "Time On My Hands" - (Brendan Rothwell)
15 - 17 - U-Nam - "The Essential Collection" - (Skytown Records)
16 - 7 - Nick Colionne - "The Journey" - (Trippin 'N' Rhythm")
17 - 23 - Michael Lington - "Second Nature" - (Copenhagen Music)
18 - 16 - Darryl Williams - "Here To Stay" - (Independent)
19 - 18 - Ben Tankard - "Full Tank3:CanTANKerous - Ben-Jamin Music Universal)
20 - 8 - Ragan Whiteside - "Treblemaker" - (Randis Music)

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Dave Koz - "20th Anniversary Christmas" - Release on Concord Records 9/29 #jazz

Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas also features guest vocalists Selina Albright,
Javier Colon, Kenny Lattimore, Gabriel Orengo and Jeffrey Osborne

After twenty years of sold out Christmas tours and five celebrated holiday albums within as many years, saxophonist Dave Koz has done his share – and then some – to help to make the season bright. This year he has reassembled his original holiday lineup – pianist David Benoit, trumpeter Rick Braun and acoustic guitarist Peter White – for the making of Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas, an album that features brand new recordings of classic Christmas songs.
The September 29, 2017, release of Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas on Concord Records sets the stage for Koz and this same lineup to go back on the road in late November for the 2017 holiday season.
“If you had asked me twenty years ago, I would never in a million years believed that we’d be doing Christmas tours two decades later,” says Koz. “But here we are, still doing it, and it’s going as strong as ever! So with twenty years under our belts, it seemed like a great reason to celebrate, and that’s why we decided to include the original cast of our Christmas tour. It’s our chance to go back to the very beginning and celebrate the relationships that this whole journey was built on.”
In addition to the brilliant instrumental synergy of Koz, Benoit, Braun and White, Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas also includes a stellar lineup of guest vocalists: Selina Albright, Javier Colon, Kenny Lattimore, Gabriel Orengo and Jeffrey Osborne. In addition, several of the tracks are enhanced by the West European Symphony Orchestra. This confluence of instrumental, vocal and orchestral talent creates the peaceful, familial, home-centered vibe that everyone seeks at holiday time.
“This is the kind of record that really sets a mood and stays with that mood,” says Koz. “The feeling and the image I get when I listen to it, is that quiet time after dinner when the kids are asleep, the fireplace is crackling, you’re enjoying an eggnog and you’re gazing at the tree with all the lights and trimmings. This music is perfect for that moment. It’s just a very chill, very beautiful collection of songs for that very peaceful time during the season.”
The album opens on a light-hearted note with “Winter Wonderland.” The orchestra begins with a whimsical figure that sounds like snow falling, and then segues immediately into the familiar melody. “It’s a great song to start the album,” says Koz, “because everyone is featured, everyone plays the melody and everyone has a solo. You really get a sense of everyone’s personality in a single track.”
“Joy to the Wonderful World” is just what the title suggests – a medley of “Joy to the World” and “What a Wonderful World.” The track talks about the world in general, but especially at Christmastime. “People are different at this time of year,” says Koz. “Christmastime brings out the best in everyone and we all look at the world with childlike joy and tend to appreciate things more. We often hear people say – why can’t it be like Christmas all year ‘round.”
“Christmas Time Is Here” derives much of its beauty from the spontaneity of its inception. “We had a five minute conversation about what we were going to do,” says Koz, “we picked a key, we pressed record, and three and a half minutes later, there was the track! When you hear that melody, it’s the holidays. There’s no doubt about it. It takes you right there.”
Gabriel Orengo brings his expressive vocals to the Jose Feliciano classic “Feliz Navidad.” Koz calls the arrangement “a completely novel way of interpreting the song. Gabriel does this sort of Bruno Mars type of vocal delivery that’s so expressive and so in the moment. When I first heard Gabriel do it, I thought, ‘We have to find a way to make it work on the album,’ and we did. I’m very proud of this track.”
“Hark! The Herald Angels We Have Heard on High” is another one-take wonder that came together in the studio with very little preliminary planning. “It’s a pretty sophisticated piece of music, a musical mash up of two classics” says Koz, “and yet it was just one pass from start to finish.”
Selina Albright’s heartfelt vocals bring a retro sensibility to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but at the same time, “she has all the dexterity of a modern pop singer,” says Koz. “She takes it to another level, but never overdoes it. Her version sounds so true to what the song is all about.”
“O Tannenbaum,” one of Koz’s all-time favorites, creates an opportunity for plenty of interplay between himself and his three bandmates. “At the end of the track, there’s a musical conversation that came about organically. Look for quotes from familiar melodies like ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘On Broadway’ and others.”
Javier Colon delivers the emotional payoff in “Silent Night,” a track that starts as a subtle instrumental piece and culminates with Colon’s angelic delivery. “Since the moment this song was written in the 1800s, it has been something more than a song. It’s like a prayer. So you must approach it with tremendous respect. Javier does that beautifully.” 
Kenny Lattimore’s emotionally powerful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” had its origins in Koz’s 2016 Christmas tour. “The first night Kenny sang it, he got a standing ovation,” Koz recalls. “So we asked him to memorialize his version on this album.”
The lush and peaceful “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is a classic that Koz hadn’t recorded on any previous holiday albums. “It’s a beautiful melody in its own right,” he says, “and David wrote this absolutely gut-wrenching, gorgeous arrangement for the orchestra.”
Jeffrey Osborne delivers the stirring “Home Medley,” a combination of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home,” a song that is traditionally the final number in Koz’s Christmas shows, and it speaks to the emotional connection so common at this time of year. “It’s that sense of stability you get when you’re surrounded by your loved ones,” he says, “whether you’re actually in your physical home or not.”
Indeed, home for Koz and his bandmates is any place where they feel a positive connection. It may be in your town, or even in your living room. “Oftentimes,” he says, “because we’ve been going back to some of the same venues over the course of twenty years for the Christmas tour, these places feel like our home – even if it’s just for two hours in one night in December. Likewise, the songs on Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas are all very important to those of us who recorded them. We’ve poured a lot of love and care into each song, and hope fans are filled with warmth, kindness and Christmas Spirit.”
Dave Koz on the web:
Dave Koz’s Christmas store features exclusive items to celebrate the 20th Anniversary Christmas album, including signed CDs, socks, and a 7” picture vinyl where fans can get a personal Happy Holidays intro from Dave. More here:
Track list:
1. Winter Wonderland (3:48)
2. Joy to the Wonderful World (Medley) (4:10)
3. Christmas Time is Here (3:05)
4. Feliz Navidad featuring Gabriel Orengo (3:56)
5. Hark! The Herald Angels We Have Heard on High (Medley) (3:36)
6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas featuring Selina Albright (3:52)
7. O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) (4:16)
8. Silent Night featuring Javier Colon (4:40)
9. Hallelujah featuring Kenny Lattimore (4:14)
10. O Little Town of Bethlehem (4:25)
11. The Home Medley featuring Jeffrey Osborne (I'll Be Home for Christmas/Celebrate Me Home) (5:24)
Dave Koz tour dates:
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center
Florida Theatre
King Center
Van Wezel Perf. Arts Hall
Ruth Eckerd Hall
Newport News
Ferguson Center for the Arts
Tilles Center for the Arts
The Scottish Rite Auditorium
No. Bethesda
Music Center at Strathmore
Motor City Casino at Sound Board
State Theatre
Palace Theatre
Chicago Theatre
The Palladium
El Paso
Plaza Theatre
Mesa Arts Center - Ikeda Theatre
San Diego
Balboa Theatre
Las Vegas
SLS The Foundry
Las Vegas
SLS The Foundry
Rohnert Park
Weill Hall @ Sonoma State University
Gallo Center For The Arts
Palm Desert
MacCallum Theatre
San Jose
City National Civic
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Lizz Wright - "Grace" - September 15 Release on Concord Records - #Jazz

Lauded American singer Lizz Wright’s latest project, Grace, reveals the web of deep-running roots of story and song that bind together the vastly diverse traditions that are the soul of the American South. Wright summons her Southern heritage and the spirit of the earth to usher us into a nurturing space that pulses and hums with the unspoken suggestion that grace is a cornerstone of our original state of being.

Produced by acclaimed singer and songwriter Joe HenryGrace is a stark reflection of Wright’s sense of place and belonging that’s deeply woven into the cultural fabric of America. Grace is set for release on Concord Records on Friday, September 15, 2017.

Grace was tracked live on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles alongside a standout cast of musicians at United Recording Studios – the sessions feature her nearly 20-year collaboration with Atlanta-based pianist and choir director Kenny Banks Sr., special guest guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist David Piltch, guitarists Chris Bruce and Marvin Sewell, drummer Jay Bellerose, and keyboardist Patrick Warren. An expansive collection of 10 songs and an original co-write with Maia Sharp ("All the Way Here”), Grace is Wright’s testament of devotion to speaking and embodying the fullness of her humanity through music. Her most clear statement to date, Grace finds Wright standing center stage in the complex dialogues of coexistence and interdependence between all walks of life.

On Grace, the warm and weathered colors of her voice speak with assurance that she is a tireless steward of freedom and change. Leaning into curated classics and contemporary covers, Wright pierces form with gentle and unfettered individuality. By virtue of the bold arrangements, Wright and the musicians depict an unencumbered enclave where grace sparks a feeling of exploration and leads to the discovery of an umbilical place of trust that must be uncovered.

The vast landscapes portrayed on Grace are brimming with Wright’s singular translations of music by Ray CharlesAllen ToussaintNina SimoneSister Rosetta Tharpek.d. langBob DylanFrank Perkins and Mitchell Parish, as well as emerging artists Rose Cousins and Birds of Chicago. From a body of about 70 covers collected primarily by Joe Henry, 10 works were selected that mirror Wright’s rural upbringing and the trail of stories and songs that have brought her to the world stage. Having a strong sense of intention to speak of grace from the inception of the project, Wright forwent writing the title track after hearing "Grace” by Rose Cousins – the first title track Wright didn’t compose from her catalogue of six studio recordings.

Grace opens with "Barley,” a song penned by Birds of Chicago based on the traditional blues format of word repetition. With its sweeping march and repeating phrases, "Barley” has Wright churning an ancestral force of affirmation and encouragement.

Spanning the entire album, Wright culls inspiration from the 2015 documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, where Simone states in an interview segment, "It’s the duty of an artist to respond to the times.” With her rendition of "Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You,” Wright renders a patient and affectionate statement to reflect her life as an American in 2017.

For the Sister Rosetta Tharpe song, "Singing in My Soul,” she channels Tharpe’s conviction that there’s an outpouring of song that can be voiced in the world at any time and despite the times. Joe Henry’s years of friendship and collaboration with Allen Toussaint brought "Southern Nights” to the pre-studio listening session. Allen’s spirited trail of rural imagery made "Southern Nights” the song that felt like home.

Ray Charles’ "What Would I Do” brings a swinging Georgia gospel feel to Grace with Kenny Banks’ southern church piano work and bold choir arrangements bolstering Lizz’s swelling vocals. "Stars Fell on Alabama” is a romantic account of the spectacular Leonid meteor shower of 1833 and has since been covered by over 100 artists. Wright uses the standard to relish in the sentiment that it’s good to take your time when you’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Dylan’s "Every Grain of Sand” found Wright singing through stacked frames of poetry where bliss and misery overlap to reveal the human experience in a tender light. Wright’s interpretation of k.d. lang’s "Wash Me Clean” is a portrayal of intimate communion, mixing the two worlds of sensuality and prayer. Grace concludes with "All the Way Here,” Wright’s co-write with Maia Sharp depicting how our names carry both the meaning of who we’ve been and the story of what we have become.

"Lizz Wright and I have been friends for nearly fifteen years; I’ve hungered for the chance to stand in service to her as she sang, so powerful do I find the expression of her humanity,” says Joe Henry. "It was and remains an honor to have been Lizz’s scout along the journey of Grace. And in such dark times, we are all as musicians called to answer brutality with wild and inclusive beauty. When Lizz now sings, I am allowed to feel by extension that I am doing something of my part. What a gift that has been to me; what a gift she offers all.”

Grace is a homecoming for Wright; a rite of passage that traces the landscape between her Blue Ridge Mountains home and the storied lands of her family in central and South Georgia and along the Georgia Sea Islands.

For her return, Wright and photographer Jesse Kitt set out on a seminal road trip. The two women course down rural pathways to chronicle a myriad of the kinds of places and faces that encompass the album Grace. Kitt beautifully documented Wright’s reunions with family members, neighbors, mentors and encounters with strangers. In an effort to "hear the true voice of the south at this moment” for themselves, they rambled along farmlands, back porches, sandy beaches, and the bustling Atlanta streets as Wright conversed with the people. She and Kenny Banks Sr. also recorded with a choir featuring powerful singers from Atlanta’s local churches for three songs on Grace ("Grace,” "What Would I Do,” "Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You”).

Grace is a proclamation to unearth our fundamental kindness and generosity. It sets forth a real invitation to openly contemplate our humanity. In her commitment to foster a more courageous, equal and tolerant society, Wright is plugged into several programs and endeavors that call for her engagement as a song and essay writer, a board member and a storyteller. From the experience of the humble country dinner with her friends and neighbors in the mountains, Wright is reminded of the impact of simple acts of sharing each other’s presence, without agenda. She realizes the meaningful and effective work of just being a good neighbor. Within these small and common gestures is a model of effectiveness for every large endeavor and project for social change.

"In this day it’s nearly a revolutionary act to stand deep in unconditional love, to abide in fearless belonging and to embrace our inescapable tenderness,” says Lizz Wright.

Lizz Wright and her band will tour in select North American and international markets in the autumn of 2017, presenting a full multimedia production of photographs captured by Jesse Kitt as a backdrop to the live performance of Grace.

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Mike Stern - "Trip" - Release September 8th, on Heads Up - #jazz

On July 3, 2016, the world changed forever for Mike Stern. The multiple Grammy-nominated guitarist, a former member of Miles Davis’ band during the early 1980s and subsequent member of Steps Ahead, Jaco Pastorius’ Word of Mouth and The Brecker Brothers, was hailing a cab outside his apartment in Manhattan when he tripped over some hidden construction debris left in the street. He broke both his arms in the fall and the cab he was hailing ended up taking him to the hospital. This horrific accident happened on the day he was supposed to leave town for a European tour, which was promptly cancelled. Not only did Stern fracture both humerus bones (the long bones that run from the shoulder to the elbow), he was left with significant nerve damage in his right hand that prevented him from doing the simplest tasks, including holding a pick. Following his initial surgery, Stern was back on scene in late October, guesting with Chick Corea in a celebration of Miles Davis’ music during Corea’s two-month residency at the Blue Note in Manhattan. For that gig, he had to play seated while wearing a black glove outfitted with velcro to help him hold onto his velcro-fitted pick. In November, Stern hit the road for a European tour, co-leading a band with longtime friend and collaborator, drummer Dave Weckl.

Following a second surgery, the guitarist gained more control of his nerve-damaged picking hand and subsequently devised a scheme where he literally glues his right-hand fingers to the pick, which strengthened his grip, allowing him to more fully realize his signature speed, precision and fluidity informed mainly by bebop and the blues. Feeling sufficiently fortified, Stern and his stellar crew of sidemen — many of whom go back with him to the ‘80s — went into Spin Studio in Long Island City between January and March of 2017 to record his 17th album as a leader. The guitarist’s sly, self-deprecating sense of humor comes across in the title of the album, Trip, as well as on individual tracks like "Screws” (he initially had 11 screws put into his arm following his first surgery) and "Scotch Tape and Glue” (his current method for holding onto the pick).

A powerhouse outing, Trip, set for release on September 8, 2017 via Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, features such longstanding colleagues as trumpeters Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney, saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bill Evans, the latter a bandmate in Miles Davis’ ‘comeback band’ of 1981, bassists Victor Wooten and Tom Kennedy and drummers Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers and Lenny White. Produced by pianist-keyboardist Jim Beard, Stern’s frequent producer going back to 1991’s Odds or Evens, Trip is a brilliant showcase of what the acclaimed guitarist does best — riffing on post-Miles funk-fusion ("Trip,” "Screws,” "Watchacallit”), urgent swingers ("Half Crazy,” "Scotch Tape and Glue,” "B Train”) and lyrical ballads ("Emilia,” "I Believe You”). His wife Leni Stern guests on two tracks, playing the n’goni (a three-stringed African instrument) on the buoyant "Emilia,” which also features Gio Moratti on backup vocals, and the uplifting ballad "I Believe You.” Other  performers on Trip include percussionists Arto Tuncboyaciyan and Elhadji Alioune Faye, Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun and bassists Teymur Phell and Edmond Gilmore, both of whom currently work with Stern on his regular Monday and Wednesday night residency at the 55 Bar in the heart of Greenwich Village.

Says Stern of the whole arduous journey that led to this triumphant comeback album: "Sometimes you have some bad stuff that’ll happen to you, but you kind of get through it and you realize that everybody has this stuff — good trips and bad trips. But you just gotta keep trying, you gotta get up and keep going as soon as you can, which I was able to do. I had to figure out a way to play. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t play music. If you really want something bad enough, sometimes you have to fight for it; you find a way to make it happen. And now I have friends who I trust who tell me that they wouldn’t have noticed any difference in my playing if I hadn’t told them what happened to me.”

Indeed. From his scorched-earth distortion laced licks on "Trip” and "Screws” to his fleet-fingered burn on the three swingers paced by Lenny White — the Rhythm Changes number "Half Crazy,” "Scotch Tape and Glue” (based on the changes to "On Green Dolphin Street”) and "B Train” (his quirky contrafact on "Take the A Train”), Stern’s celebrated chops are intact on Trip. Elsewhere on this all-star outing, he shows rare sensitivity on his tender nylon string acoustic ballad "Gone” and on "Emilia,” which marks his second appearance on record as a vocalist (his first was on the lyrical tune "Wishing Well” from Electric, his 2014 collaboration with fellow guitar hero Eric Johnson). "Singing is kind of second nature for me,” says Stern. "I sometimes sing the melody when I’m writing a tune. I’ll be playing chords on the guitar and I’ll start singing a melody and then write it down. I got the nerve to do it from that record I did with Eric Johnson and I’m doing it more on the gig too. And it’s cool because I’ve always tried to get that more vocal sound on the electric guitar. So the two go hand-in-hand.”

Whether he’s throwing down some burning, high velocity lines on "Trip,” "Screws” or "Scotch Tape and Glue,” or conjuring up a more buoyant vibe, as on "Hope for That” or the uplifting "I Believe You,” Stern is definitely back on top of his game after months of struggle and uncertainty. And in typically humble fashion, he defers to his bandmates on this all-star session. "Everybody played their asses off on this record,” he says of Trip. "I was really happy with how it came out, because everybody just put so much love and energy into it. When I get to play with the caliber of musicians on this recording, I'm just glad to be part of the band.”

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