Mike Stern/Bob Berg Band defines Jazz/Rock Fusion.
When saxophonist Bob Berg was tragically killed in December, 2002 at the age of 51, he’d just recorded two projects that would demonstrate just how passionate and far-reaching a contemporary post bop player he was. On one hand, trumpeter Eddie Henderson’s So What (Eighty-Eights, 2003) was built on the kind of atmospheric and open-ended approach of Miles Davis’ mid-1960s quintet with Wayne Shorter—a seminal influence on Berg. On the other hand, on vibraphonist Joe Locke’s 4 Walls of Freedom (Sirocco Jazz, 2003), the quartet fashioned its own distinctive, propulsive and energetic post bop around Locke’s own writing, instead of reinterpreting well-heeled material by Monk, Shorter, and others.
He recorded a couple of albums under his own name during those years, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Short Stories—the first in a series of releases for Denon—that he emerged as a leader in his own right, also touring extensively with the co-led Mike Stern/Bob Berg band over the next few years. While the electrified energy and furious chops of Friday Night at the Cadillac Club, the altered blues of Snakes, and the modal burn of Silverado imply a kind of fusion sensibility that comes in no small part from Mike Stern’s heavy metal bebop guitar, Berg’s writing style favoured a melodicism often missing from contemporary fusioneers. In the Shadows is serious funk, with erstwhile drummer Dennis Chambers delivering a deeply visceral groove, while the aptly titled Kalimba and Amazon put a contemporary jazz spin on two world views. The Bruce Hornsby-esque Back Roads and Latin-informed Travellin’ Man represent the kind of material that was sure to get radio play before stations made the switch from contemporary to smooth jazz.
One of the most esteemed electric guitarists of his generation, Mike Stern has distinguished himself over a four-decade career that has encompassed musical partnerships with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, the Brecker Brothers and Joe Henderson, as well as 16 recordings as a leader (six of which were nominated for GRAMMY® Awards). An electrifying soloist whose blistering chops combine rock-fusion firepower with sophisticated jazz harmonies and his inherently bluesy string bending prowess, Stern has the ability to instantly elevate the proceedings on any gig or session he plays by channeling the spirits of his own personal guitar heroes Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, and Albert King.
Born in Boston on January 10, 1953, Stern grew up in Washington, DC, then returned to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music. He got his first big break with Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1976 at age 23. After touring and recording for two years with the popular rock band he was recruited by drummer Billy Cobham for a stint in his powerhouse fusion band Glass Menagerie from 1979 to early 1981. Stern was subsequently recruited by Miles Davis and was part of the jazz legend’s celebrated comeback band (with bassist Marcus Miller, drummer Al Foster, percussionist Mino Cinelu and saxophonist Bill Evans), making his public debut with Miles on June 27, 1981 at the KIX nightclub in Boston, a performance documented on the 1982 live album We Want Miles. During his three-year period with Miles, Stern appeared on two other recordings with the jazz maestro – 1981’s Man with the Horn and 1983’s Star People. He later toured with Jaco Pastorius’ Word of Mouth Band from 1983 through 1985 then returned to Miles’ lineup for a second tour of duty that lasted close to a year.
02. Common ground
Bob Berg (Saxophones)
Mike Stern (Guitar)
Lincoln Goines (Bass)
Dennis Chambers (Drums)