Analysis Of Big Neighborhood, By Mike Stern

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Mike Stern is an American jazz guitarist known presently for his solo work and previously as the guitarist for legendary trumpeter Miles Davis in the early 1980s. Much of Stern’s compositions and improvisations incorporate a variety of musical styles including rock, blues and jazz traditions. Big Neighborhood is Stern’s 14th solo album released in 2009. The album is recognized for its eclectic musical styles and guest artist collaborations. As one reviewer states, “Big Neighborhood’s styles range from blazing jazz-fusion to African tinged exotica and trippy Middle Eastern journeys.” (Widran, 2009). Both reviews incorporate Stern’s diverse musical content and guest artists as the focus for their arguments. AllMusic’s Jonathan Widran recognizes…show more content…
Widran thinks collaborating with other musicians’ native styles is crucial when experimenting with new types of music and enhanced Big Neighborhood’s authenticity while Fordham believes the collaborations were forced in a failed attempt to create a new sound for Stern. Fordham makes an interesting point about the collaborations in the album that I agree with. The tracks “Moroccan Roll” and “Check One” have a very similar, if not the same, vibe as previous works from John McLaughlin and John Scofield. However, I think that Widran is correct in thinking hiring artists native in the style you wish to pursue helps add to the albums authenticity. This sort of thing happens commonly in music, and a good example of this would be Herbie Hancock hiring funk musicians, rather than jazz musicians, to get a more authentic funk sound. Though unlike Hancock, Stern does not sound as if he is creating a groundbreaking new sound for himself or his preferred jazz-rock idiom in Big Neighborhood. It sounds to me as if Stern is emulating other artists’ styles rather than creating a fresh voice for himself. I also disagree with Fordham when it comes to his views on Stern’s general voice as an artist. When I first heard Stern play I could hear a unique sound right away. His heavy use of chorus gives him a very distinct sound on the instrument that makes him recognizable even in the diverse genres displayed in Big Neighborhood. I sense in Widran’s review too that he may have formed his positive views on Stern because of his widespread popularity and accomplishments over the course of his career. I oppose this idea because often times many great artists do not get immediate praise for their work, and similarly many genres do not get considered for prestigious awards such as the Grammys. I generally regard Stern as being a very talented and well-versed musician, but overall I was

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