Mike Stern: There is No Greater Love
There is No Greater Love
Mike Stern (guitar)
Standards (and other songs) (Wounded Bird 2419)
Composed by Marty Symes and Isham Jones.
Recorded: New York City, 1992
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
Stern has been justifiably categorized as a fusion/jazz-rock guitarist, based on his own albums as well as his early work with Blood, Sweat and Tears, Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, and Steps Ahead. Of Stern's 10 Atlantic releases, only two—Give and Take and Standards (and other songs)—gave the listener a chance to evaluate the artist on either jazz or popular standards, as the other 8 CDs contain exclusively Stern originals. What Stern exhibits on tunes like "Oleo," "Like Someone in Love," "Straight No Chaser," and especially on his riveting 9-minute exploration of "There is No Greater Love," is a refreshingly uncliched and perhaps surprisingly adept and assured approach to material more often associated with bop and hard bop players.
The guitarist plays the theme with a clean, subdued tone devoid of much of its usual distortion and/or delay. Stern's phrasing in his two improvisations is verbose but remarkably fluent, overall recalling at times Pat Metheny, John Scofield, or an extremely hyper Jim Hall. He builds relentlessly, layer upon layer, bending notes tastefully and accelerating the speed with which he executes his always logically conceived runs. He pauses to allow for Jay Anderson's lyrical bass solo, before returning to focus almost obsessively on ways to vary a particularly appealing motif. Stern's funky out-chorus, with its fleeting allusion to Miles Davis's "Jean Pierre," probably comes closer to merging his straight jazz and fusion propensities than what he played previously on this irresistible track.
Reviewer: Scott Albin