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Mitch Stein

The show had already started and the sound came rushing up the stairs to meet me as I made my way to the basement of the Izzy Bar that night in '97. The sound, like Led Zeppelin on overdrive wearing a Stetson and armed with 21st Century calculus, made my hair stand on end. I'd been told by those who know that The Hermanators were probably the best band in the city and that their leader, Mitch Stein, was a New York guitar legend. Sure enough the room was packed, full of some of the finest improvising musicians anywhere, devoted fans and even a contingent of the "beautiful people."

Over the course of the set they played with energetic hyper funk, raucous raging rock, hymnal beauty, twisted country and bemused blues underpinned by advanced harmony and intricate grooves all the while displaying incredible empathy between each other and a healthy dose of humor. I'd been Hermanated!

Mitch "Moose" Stein is a genuine NY guitar hero, born and raised in the mythic Gotham. Both his parents were musicians (mother a classical pianist and father a jazz trumpeter) but the first music that hooked him while still in kindergarten was"Meet the Beatles". The young Stein, drawn to the rhythm of rock 'n roll, started off on drums before switching to the guitar in the 6th grade. Shortly after, he started lessons with renowned studio musician Allen Hanlon whom Mitch says "kicked my ass and made me take the guitar seriously!"

As a teenager Moose loved listening to bands that stretched out and jammed a la The Allman Bros and then one day, while still a senior in high-school, a friend played him Coltrane. It was "My Favorite Things" live at Newport and "it turned my head around! They were jamming but on a whole different planet!"

Coltrane had opened up a whole new world for the nascent musician who subsequently found a great jazz teacher in Rich Boukas and immediately started soaking up as much jazz history as he could. The seeds were sown for his now rapid development into a world-class guitarist, capable of infusing all the modern styles together with a rare and organic ease. In 1982 legendary jazz organist Brother Jack McDuff gave Mitch his first major pro gig straight out of NYU.

Brother Jack has nurtured many renowned jazz guitarists including George Benson, Grant Green and Pat Martino and Mitch was to record two albums with him during his one-year tenure with the band. For the next few years he was gigging all over the place honing his "jazz" chops but his own identity lay elsewhere. "I wanted to expand my palette of sounds and vocabulary and I started looking for other musical avenues to explore." Soon, Moose started hooking up with other like-minded musicians, most notably in a band led by drummer Victor Jones, and featuring saxophonist Alex Foster, vibraphonist Joe Locke and bassist Tom Barney. In 1989 Mitch joined Mino Cinelu's band who were essentially the house band at a now defunct club called Zanzibar. Unfortunately the band was never recorded but it is talked about to this day with awe by musicians in NY. In 1991 Mitch started playing with the brilliant Brazilian jazz pianist and singer, Tania Maria.

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The Hermanators: But What About Me?

Read "The Hermanators: But What About Me?" reviewed by Mike Jacobs

Guitarist Mitch Stein, bassist Kip Reed and drummer Rodney Holmes had a great thing going with their trio, The Hermanators. Despite making a studio album--Twisted--and something of a splash in the '90s NYC club scene, it remains almost criminal that this group didn't take off. Thankfully, the talent of the trio's members didn't go unnoticed, leading to them each into stints with a host of varied artists (such as Tania Maria, Wayne Shorter, Bill Evans (sax), Steve Kimock, the Brecker ...

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