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Mike Stern: Who Let the Cats Out?

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Guitarist Mike Stern has touched quite a few stylistic bases over the course of a three-decade career that’s included stints with Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, Michael Brecker, David Sanborn and Steps Ahead-and a dozen recordings as a leader. With Who Let the Cats Out, his first recording for Heads Up, Stern has assembled an all-star cast to accompany him on 11 original compositions that shift effortlessly between jazz, rock, funk and world music.

As an example, the lineup of bass players alone includes Richard Bona, Chris Minh Doky, Meshell Ndegeocello, Victor Wooten and Anthony Jackson. Add Roy Hargove on trumpet, Dave Weckl and Kim Thompson on drums, Bob Franceschini and Bob Malach on sax, Jim Beard on keyboards and Gregoire Maret on harmonica and you’ve got some serious musical firepower to work with.

Stern mixes and matches these musicians with excellent results throughout the recording. Hargrove burns brightly on the postboppish title cut and showcases his funk licks on “KT”-named for drummer Thompson, who is now a regular member of Stern’s band.

But the real glue that holds all these musicians together is Stern himself. This is his most eclectic effort yet-and just may be his best as well.