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Mike Stern: Playing by Heart

By Published: March 19, 2004

AAJ: Do you think you'll be working with some of the other guys at ESC: Bill Evans or Randy?

MS: Yeah, sure. I'd love to do some stuff with Randy (Brecker). Bill, of course we played together with Miles, so that might be fun and of course Dennis (Chambers), we're still gonna be doing stuff. But I'm kind of keying more on not too many separate projects and just trying to do my own stuff, albeit with different cats. I like to change it up but I like doing my own stuff, it's a ball doing that, and I feel like it pushes me in a way, musically, that I want to be pushed. I really just want to develop whatever potential I have. And that seems to be the way to go for me, to do my own stuff and try to make it work with different cats. Sometimes it's hard to do. I've recorded almost a hundred tunes now, on other people's records ' written for them ' or especially on my own records and it's hard to play and get cats together and rehearse. And so sometimes you end up playing some similar stuff where you want to change up. It doesn't matter. If you get different guys and you play the same tune and they put their own thing on it. If the tune's open enough in a live setting, it's fresh, for me anyway. But that's one of the hard logistical things: to try to get cats together and do all new tunes. It's really hard.

AAJ: Do you see yourself playing with Pat (Metheny) sometime? You guys need to do a record.

MS: It'd be fun. I love his playing and all. But I think he did the thing with Sco and some stuff with Frisell and he's feeling like the same thing. I know he feels the same way about guitar. He's into it, but he's into other instruments and other colors, and I kind of feel the same way but I'd love to do maybe a cut with him, at some point before (laughs)'that would be a wonderful experience for me, I'm sure, but you never know, we'll see what happens.

AAJ: So do you get to play with any new players? Ever do anything with Wayne Krantz?

MS: Yeah, sure. Wayne's a great friend of mine and Adam Rodgers (with Scofield). I play with him sometimes. But my favorite's still are guys who are coming from blues and have that same kind of swinging thing, and I feel that very much from Sco, and something like that from Frisell. It's just where we came from and what was happening with the music when we grew up, I guess, and so I kind of feel that. There's another guy named Jay Azzolina, who's not particularly well known, but he plays his fuckin' ass off. First and foremost I hear that in somebody's playing and that's what gravitates me more than an interesting kind of player. You know, you can play a certain thing, the same line, but some people have this thing to it that gets me, anyway. And maybe two people might say, 'Well, I don't really hear it', but for me, I notice a certain time feel that I kind of gravitate towards. It's kind of a subtle thing but it's very strong for me and it makes me dig certain players. There's another guy, Pete Bernstein, I love. A straight-ahead player but he's got that same kind of in-that-world-that-I-dig, thing. It's not a question of whether or not he rocks it's more of a swing kind of thing, which I feel is even in my rock playing. And you wouldn't call it swing, really, because its not, but it is. There's a certain kind of thing when Sco plays funk I feel it swingin'. You know what I'm saying. And Frisell, the way he plays, its not so much swingin' but I feel something that gets me. I can't explain it.

AAJ: Its almost hard to describe, you've got to experience it.

MS: Exactly. It is hard. It's impossible to describe. I could try but it wouldn't do it justice. It's one of those things that should be left invisible. It's whatever it is. But there's a lot of great players that I try hook up with and try to learn from. There's so many different cats.

[Note: Mike's gear list includes a Mike Aronson Telecaster w/ a 50's Broadcaster neck or a Pacifica Telecaster style guitar running through a Pearce GR-1 w/ Hartke 4x10 cabinet & a Yamaha G-100 w/ 2 12's. Effects are: Yamaha SPX-90, Boss CH-1 super chorus, OC-1 Octaver, (2) DD-3 Digital Delays and a DS-1 Distortion. The SPX-90 is used for chorus only].

Photo Credit
Helmut Riedel .

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