Mike Stern - Big Neighbourhood (3 stars)

Mike Stern - Big Neighbourhood

Guitarist Mike Stern sees the big neighbourhood analogy as central to his musical philosophy as well as a way of encompassing the diverse line-ups and musical styles on this latest album. Recorded in New York, Los Angeles and Texas (and that is a very big neighbourhood), the music stretches from the opening gladiatorial rock-out with Steve Vai to bassist Esperanza Spalding’s soft-focus wordless vocals, and many points between.

Bassist Richard Bona also provides his own take on wordless vocalising as well as his usual African feel, while Medeski, Martin and Wood give a funky edge to the two tunes they appear on. Steve Vai turns up again, as does guitarist Eric Johnson, while saxophonist Bob Malach and trumpeter Randy Brecker also feature. Stern’s own guitar work and some great rhythm sections help to hold it all together as a functioning concept.

(Heads Up Records)

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