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It took a while for me to get into this one, probably because I'm a huge fan of Stern's fusion stuff. At first I thought there was a lot of needless noodling on Give And Take, but repeated listens have helped me appreciate the complexity and intensity of the playing. This is a purer jazz outing with fewer rock tendencies than I'm accustomed to from Stern. Jazz heavyweights Michael Brecker, John Patitucci, Jack DeJohnette and pianist-producer Gil Goldstein push Stern to new heights here, and I've come to feel that it's one of Stern's best.
You have to be one confident guitarist to tackle Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," but Stern rips through each with aplomb. My favorites here are the tunes that pair Stern with Brecker, most notably the originals "Everything Changes" and "Jones Street." The former's a deeply reflective ballad and the latter's a slow bluesy number that evokes a wet city street in the middle of the night. The bluesy "That's What You Think" contains some of the best blowing I've ever heard out of David Sanborn's alto sax. DeJohnette and Patitucci are their usual brilliant selves throughout, and Don Alias adds some subtle percussion touches on five tracks.
A few people have told me they prefer Stern's Standards (And Other Songs) to his more fusion-oriented work. If they give it a chance, Give And Take should appeal to Stern fans of all stripes.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.