Mike Stern


Heads Up

As his Edinburgh Jazz Festival concert in July confirmed, guitarist Mike Stern has made a remarkable recovery from the fall he suffered a year earlier in which he broke both his arms, a career-threatening trauma that he makes light of, with characteristic upbeatness, in this album’s title.

Stern also suffered nerve damage in his right hand but you would never know from his urgent, energetic picking on the frankly exciting, effervescent opening, title track. Surrounding himself with the cream of New York musicians, Stern has produced an album that’s up there with anything he’s delivered since he first made an international impact on Miles Davis’s The Man with the Horn album in 1981.

Davis’ later influence is felt in tracks such as Blueprint, where trumpeter Randy Brecker solos with fabulous commitment and musicality, but what particularly stands out is the uniformity of quality not just across a variety of styles, from the modern bebop of the aptly named Half Crazy, to the funk of Watchacallit to the lyricism of Emilia to the acoustic reflection of Gone, but also across the different line-ups Stern employs. Trip would be a great record under any circumstance but given its background, it’s heroic.