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Spajazzy: Spajazzy

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Guitarist Mike Stern lends his scorching licks to three tracks on this fine self-produced fusion outing by the Italian-born, Berklee-trained rhythm tandem of drummer Sergio Bellotti and bassist Tino D’Agostino. Bellotti is a hard-hitter in the tradition of Dennis Chambers, as he so forcefully demonstrates on the urgent opening track, D’Agostino’s “Son Finite le Vergini.” Full of challenging unison lines and demanding stop-time statements, this one harkens back to early Brecker Brothers and is fueled by D’Agostino’s slippery, Jaco-like funk groove. After a lengthy Michael Brecker-influenced tenor solo by Bill Vint, Stern wails heroically like a bop-inspired Carlos Santana. He also rips it up in characteristic fashion on Vint’s “Better Left Unsaid” and on guitarist Jim Kelly’s funk vehicle “Mr. Stern.”

Kelly, a guitar professor at Berklee, lays out some slick, clean-toned fingerstyle work on his earthy “Blue Caboose,” then applies a warm overdriven tone for a flowing effect on his “Six for Costas.”

D’Agostino’s playing throughout is brilliant. Like Gary Willis, Jeff Andrews and John Patitucci, he has adopted some of Pastorius’ patented bass tricks while taking it a step further. On a lovely trio rendition with pianist Greg Burk of “Someday My Prince Will Come” and on the soothing samba “Estate,” D’Agostino makes his most personal and musical statements.

Highly recommended to fans of Stern, Vital Information, Steps Ahead, Brecker Brothers and Yellowjackets.