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Mike Stern: Trip

Jeff Winbush By

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In the blink of an eye an accident can happen and when it does it can be a life-altering event. Think of a brain surgeon or a pro quarterback. Think of what it would mean it they suffered some sort of injury which made it impossible to grasp a scalpel or throw a football with the same accuracy as before.

Then think of what it an accident like that means for Mike Stern. On July 3, 2016, the Grammy-nominated guitarist, a former member of Miles Davis's band on the legendary musician return to recording, The Man With the Horn was hailing a cab outside his Manhattan apartment when he tripped over some hidden construction debris left in the street. Stern broke both his arms in the fall and the cab ended up taking him to the hospital.

The accident occurred on the day Stern was supposed to leave for a European tour. Stern fractured the humerus bones (the long bones that run from the shoulder to the elbow) and was left with significant nerve damage in his right hand and was unable to hold a guitar pick. Following the initial surgery, Stern returned to the stage in October guesting with Chick Corea in a celebration of Miles Davis' music during Corea's two-month residency at the Blue Note in Manhattan. Stern had to play seated while wearing a black velcro glove which enabled him to hold a velcro-fitted pick. Stern then hit the road for a European tour with drummer Dave Weckl.

After a second surgery, Stern gained more control of his nerve-damaged picking hand and came up with an idea where he literally glued his right-hand fingers to the pick. This gave the guitarist to play with the signature speed, precision and fluidity he has demonstrated over his 17 albums as a leader. Trip showcases that not only has the unfortunate accident not diminished Stern's ability, it hasn't stolen his sense of humor as evidenced by tracks like "Screws" (he had 11 screws placed in his arm following the first surgery) and "Scotch Tape and Glue" (the current method Stern uses to play the guitar).

Stern plays guitar with seemingly freewheeling abandon. You're never quite sure where any tune is going to zig or zag, but no matter how much is spins, twists, or curves it always seem to end up somewhere interesting. Contrast the placid and sparse, but lovely "Gone" which is followed immediately by the sprawling organized chaos of "Whatchacallit."

Mike Stern has assembled an all-star roster of players to assist and augment his triumphant return to making music. Trip was born out of an excruciatingly painful accident, but the purposeful playing by the guitarist and the supporting musicians can't be understated. Especially the stellar sax and trumpet work by Wallace Roney, Bill Evans, Randy Brecker, and Bob Franceschini.

Stern faces a long and ardous path back to where he was before his agonizing accident, but with a little help from his friends he can get by. Trip is a very good trip, indeed.

Track Listing: Trip; Blueprint; Half Crazy; Screws; Gone; Whatchacallit; Emilia; Hope For That; I Believe You; Scotch Tape and Glue; B Train.

Personnel: Mike Stern: guitar, vocals; Randy Brecker: trumpet (1, 2); Jim Beard: piano, Hammond organ, keyboards; Dennis Chambers: drums (1, 2, 6); Tom Kennedy: bass (1, 2, 6); Arto Tuncboyaciyan: percussion (1, 2, 4, 7, 8); Bob Franceschini: tenor saxophone (1, 6); Victor Wooten: bass (1); Bill Evans: tenor sax (3, 10); Lenny White: drums (3, 4, 10, 11); Teymur Phell: bass (3, 7, 8, 11); Wallace Roney: tumpet (4, 11); Will Calhoun: drums (5, 9); Edmond Gilmore: acoustic bass (5); Gio Moretti: vocal (7); Leni Stern: ghoni (7, 9); Dave Weckl: drums (8); Edmond Gilmore: bass (9); Elhadji Alioune Faye: percussion (10).

Title: Trip | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Heads Up International

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