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Mike Stern: Give and Take

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Following a couple of successful romps in a fusionesque vein-including last year’s Grammy-nominated Between The Lines-guitarist Mike Stern is back on a more straight ahead track, swinging his ass off in such stellar company as Jack DeJohnette, John Patitucci, Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Gil Goldstein and Don Alias. Produced by Goldstein, Give And Take is an accurate title for this highly interactive session of trios and quartets highlighting Stern’s incredibly fluid chops, his melodic penchant and capacity to scorch over bop changes with just a touch of nasty rock-fueled sting.

DeJohnette enlivens his seven tracks with a typically energized and elliptical approach, defining the beat by playing around it. He creates an especially loose-tight chemistry with Patitucci, heard here in a far more sparse and interactive role than his previous work with Chick Corea’s Akoustic Band. DeJohnette’s brushwork on the opener, a brisk rendition of Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” is restrained yet swinging while he summons up rolling waves of rhythm on a heightened “Giant Steps” and a blistering “Hook Up,” a Stern original based on “Alone Together” and featuring some muscular tenor playing from Brecker. The darkly alluring “Jones Street” is named for its allusions to Elvin Jones while the angular and buoyant “Lumpy” is Stern’s answer to Monk’s “Nutty.”

David Sanborn blows with authority on the blues “That’s What You Think” and Stern acquits himself with grace and lyricism on his two gorgeous ballads, “Everything Changes” and “Rooms.”

A real treat here, aside from the stunning display of chops and interplay, is the presence of percussion instead of drums on four tracks. Don Alias colors as he grooves on hand percussion and is particularly effective on a burning cover of Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” and a fabulous interpretation of the oft-quoted Hendrix jamming vehicle “Who Knows.” He lends a daring spirit to this already open-ended session.