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Mike Stern: Playing by Heart

By Published: March 19, 2004

AAJ: Yeah, that's cool to hear. Have you got some side projects that you'd like to talk about?

MS: Well, some different things. This thing coming up with Weckl and Richard Bona. That's fresh for me because I haven't done that much with Richard Bona, certainly not out of New York We're going to do some gigs in the states. He's playing with me in New York, Boston and then Washington DC and then we're going to LA a little later, in March for a week and then we're going to play some college in Salt Lake City and then we're going to Japan. And in the middle of that there's some gigs I'd already booked with Victor Wooten and Weckl, and that's all with Bob Francescini on saxophone.

I've got some other stuff that I'm thinking about. There's a lot of options with different players that know my stuff and are into doing different stuff. Like I want to do some stuff with Kenny Garrett, so we're already talking about that, when we can find a time, when he's available and I'm available. And I'd love to, because he kills on this record and it was like an immediate kind of hookup. Just when we were playing the melodies together, the phrasing was like bang: just what I was looking for. He's got that very vocal thing, so it just melts together beautifully. And of course he got the vibe of it just immediately, whatever tune it was, he just got the vibe perfectly. Almost didn't need to say anything.

I'm also playing with people at the 55 Bar. That's kind of a regular gig, when I'm in town, which hasn't been that much lately. I'm playing there with John Riley on drums and Francois Moutin on bass; fantastic bassist and Chris Potter on saxophone. It's more straight ahead, we're just gonna play tunes, we haven't rehearsed at all. So, there's that kind of stuff, but you never know what happens; a couple of gigs and all of a sudden maybe I'll do some stuff with Chris Potter. I love playing with Bob Francescini. And Chris Minh Doky, he's on the last record of mine and we've been playing together some, too, and so he brings the upright and electric on the road so we might do some stuff together with my band, too. So I have different players that I love playing with. Of course, Lincoln Goines, too.

AAJ: Yeah, I was wondering what happened to him.

MS: Well, we played together so much that sometimes you want to just want to do some different stuff, but we still play together. We were playing together just a couple weeks ago. But you can't have the same guys on every record, even though sometimes I want Lincoln on there, because he's just ridiculous, he's an amazing, very special player, but its nice to have some fresh stuff after you've done ten records. This is the eleventh one, actually, on this new label. And you know the whole story about the label stuff. Atlantic closed its jazz. I'd still be there, I never questioned it; they kept picking up the option. They kept making whatever they need to make and they liked the music. It worked for them and it certainly worked for me. There's absolutely no more jazz at Atlantic. There's no jazz department all of a sudden, and I asked Ahmet Ertegun about it. All my other records are available still on Warner. They still survived so far, which is great. And they put the catalog out and all that stuff. But I asked Ahmet about it and he said it was that merger between Warner and AOL, and of course Atlantic is with Warner. They have a distribution company together: WEA: Warner, Electra, Atlantic. And he said they were cutting back all kinds of shit. And they cut back the jazz department. Jazz was making money for Altantic, albeit not a lot - it was jazz money ' but all the artists were in the plus column. But division 1 - its called niche music for Atlantic - was some rappers that weren't mainstream, a couple of dj's, some alternative rock and then the jazz department; it was all under the division 1. And some computer guys - AOL ' said well, we've got to cut this, this and this for cash flow and so they cut division 1 without putting it apart, you know, it was a corporate decision. You get slashed and you wonder what the fuck happened. Some asshole who doesn't even fucking know what the fuck's going on. So that's how that works out. That's George Bush's gift to America, and people like him, and that's what happens when corporations do all that shit. They make incredibly stupid decisions but they also make these broad brush, sweeping cuts where they don't discriminate.

AAJ: It's like what you said, they don't take the time to figure out what they're even doing.

MS: Yeah, exactly. They just said. 'Division one's gone. As a whole thing its not making money'. Instead of saying, 'Take this out of there, this out of there, this guy's making money in the rap thing, the dj's and the jazz dept.'s all in the black'. Anyway, so ESC had been after me for awhile, I mean had been interested and had told me - because I know Joachim Becker who's the head of ESC - they're a small, really a jazz label, which I'd never been with before. And they seem like they, over time, push more and promote more. So there's been a little glitch with the delayed release time with this record. It's coming out a little later in Europe, probably February or the end of January, and its out now in the states. But they're doing a lot of stuff now for it, so there should be a lot of them out there.

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