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July/August 2006

Leni Stern
Love Comes Quietly
LSR

German-born New Yorker Leni Stern’s blues, jazz and rock licks on seven CDs in the 1980s and ’90s gained her a following among guitar aficionados, but in 1997 she abandoned instrumental music to flower into a singer and songwriter. On her fifth vocal effort, Stern’s songs take on a greater urgency, with part of that surely a result of her worldwide travels, most recently to Africa, India, Cambodia and Thailand.

“Inshaallah,” for example, is a richly layered song—with a beautiful oud performance by Brahim Fribgane—written and performed in Africa for the people in the desert of Essakane. Stern’s descriptive images of a wandering woman concludes with her “tall gun [that] never leaves her side.” Stern’s world-music influences come to light again on the traditional song “Reseke Bare Tore Nain,” which offers Dhanashree Pandit Rai’s almost chilling vocals.

The CD’s title speaks to the overall mellow quality of musical expression offered by Stern and main band members James Genus on bass and Keith Carlock on drums. But like all of Stern’s work, there’s plenty of texture to stick to your ribs: her Enya-like vocals and Ernesto Villa-Lobos’ violin on “Cheyenne,” her folksy timbre combined with electric guitar solos sounding like a cross between husband Mike Stern’s edgier stuff and Pat Metheny’s mellower side. And Stern can charm as well with a tune like “10,000 Butterflies.”

Originally published in July/August 2006
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