Mike Stern: There is No Greater Love

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.

June 23, 2009 · 0 comments


Sonny Rollins: There Is No Greater Love

Recorded "way out west," as the album title indicates, this trio version of "There Is No Greater Love" is a very poised and brooding one that finds Rollins in a meditative mood, due perhaps to the change of climate and partners. His tenor strolls through the chord changes with a heavy gait that gives weight to each note, and Brown's bass slowly walks by its side as do Manne's sparse brushes. A vision of a love tune that is rather far from the light and radiant image the West Coast usually projected at the time.

February 12, 2008 · 0 comments


Dinah Washington: There is No Greater Love

Forget the frills. Dinah Washington would just plant her feet and belt a song, lustily and often tongue in cheek. Here, before an appreciative studio audience, Dinah rattles the rafters with a normally tranquil ballad. When Dinah declaims (with diction as precise as Nat King Cole's) "There is no greater love / Than what I feel for you," it's plain that if you dare doubt her, she'll come smack you upside the head to prove her affection. Dinah was a delight.

November 06, 2007 · 0 comments


Miles Davis: There is No Greater Love

In 1955, Miles Davis made the Harmon-muted trumpet his signature. Too bad a sound cannot be patented the way John Stratton (inventor of the mute in 1865) did his brainchild. Miles would've made a mint. Of course, Miles made a mint anyway, so let's not get softhearted. As for reconciling Miles's Harmon-muted romanticism with his misogyny and pugnacious persona, a phalanx of psychoanalysts commanded by Doktor Freud himself would shrink away with their diplomas between their legs. Miles's 1969-1971 pianist Keith Jarrett asked him why didn't play more ballads such as "There Is No Greater Love." Miles replied, "Because I love them too much." So do we.

November 01, 2007 · 0 comments


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