Mike Stern : An American Jazz Guitarist Essay

Mike Stern : An American Jazz Guitarist Essay

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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 the album’s various artists and styles and praises it in this regard saying, “Like all the legends he ever worked for or with, from Miles Davis to Jaco Pastorious, Billy Cobham to the Brecker Brothers, the five-time Grammy nominee has learned over the course of his 26-year recording career something about the nuanced art of collaboration.” (Wildran). The quote exemplifies how Widran believes collaboration with other artists is somewhat of an art in itself and may be important in progressing as an artist. He uses examples of other legendary jazz musicians known for their innovation and experimentation as the basis for his thoughts, and believes they were successful in doing so because of the help of other artists. Also, Widran refers to Stern’s extensive recording career and various award nominations. He gives the impression that Stern’s experience and Grammy nominations strengthen his credibility as an artist. Widran also references guest artists including Esperenza Spalding and Ter...

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...tist. 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 disappointed in Big Neighborhood and thought, compared to his older jazz-rock fusion records, this album was lacking Stern’s true influence and sound he previously was known for.

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