Combine the innovative guitar energy of legendary fusion master Mike Stern with old friends (bassist Richard Bona, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta) and new (saxman Kenny Garrett), and anything is bound to happen. But fans expecting raucous swinging and jamming the whole time may be surprised at the subtle lyricism and exotic explorations that define these times for their hero.
Yes, his electric is crackling on the hypnotic opener, “Chatter,” but it’s in the crazy, exotic context of a Middle Eastern vibe inspired by Pakistani great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (look out, Eddie Vedder!). Jim Beard’s jumpy piano, Colaiuta’s wild, New Orleans groove, and Garrett’s swirling lines provide great support. Once Stern and company have the listener’s attention, they can become seductive with more intimate affairs like the Joe Zawinul-influenced “Silver Lining,” which features an exotic falsetto vocal by Bona, a former Zawinul Syndicate member who also propels the tune with his increasingly muscular basslines.