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Mike Stern: Who Let the Cats Out?

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Mike Stern has outdone himself with Who Let the Cats Out?, the award-winning, three-time Grammy-nominated guitarist's thirteenth release as a leader. This collection of jazz, rock, blues and funk styles is comprised of eleven original songs. The title is both a playful tribute to Stern's wife, who loves cats, and the free expression displayed in the music.

Born in Boston and reared in Washington, DC, Stern began his career as a guitarist with Blood, Sweat & Tears. Over the ensuing years, he would line up with Miles Davis, the Jaco Pastorius Word of Mouth Big Band and Steps Ahead, among others. Other collaborations have included Michael and Randy Brecker, Dave Weckl, John Pattitucci and Kenny Garrett.

On Who Let the Cats Out?, Stern is joined by a diverse cast of musicians. A bit of that diversity comes through on the first track, "Tumble Home, which features bassist Chris Minh Doky, drummer Kim Thompson and saxophonist Bob Franceschini. This high-energy romp into funk, rock and jazz sets the tone for the rest of the album. Things turn bluesy with "KT, which features Meshell Ndegeocello on electric bass and a muted trumpet solo by Roy Hargrove. After Stern's solo, Hargrove comes back with a free-form trumpet solo.

Bassist Richard Bona joins the ensemble for "Language, a seven-minute track that gives the musicians plenty of room to stretch out. Bona adds a falsetto vocal. Victor Wooten takes over bass duties on the funk-filled "Roll With It. While Stern gets his licks in, Wooten's solo and bass line are what put this track over the top. The band takes a Western turn with "Texas, with Gregoire Maret on harmonica and Dave Weckl on drums. The title song is more of a straightforward jazz tune. Stern lets loose with a blistering guitar solo, followed by Hargrove.

Who Let the Cats Out? sizzles on so many levels. Apart from the diverse offerings, there is the freedom with which the musicians express themselves. The album runs about 73 minutes, with the shortest track, "Good Questions, clocking in at 4:17. Though Stern is clearly the star of the show, all the players get to shine—a successful formula for an enjoyable, well-balanced album.

Track Listing: Tumble Home; KT; Good Question; Language; We

Personnel: Mike Stern: guitar; Roy Hargrove: trumpet; Bob Franceschini, Bob Malach: tenor saxophone; Gregoire Maret: harmonica; Jim Beard: piano, organ, synthesizer, clavinet; Chris Minh Doky, Meshell Ndegeocello, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson: bass; Richard Bona: bass, vocals; Dave Weckl, Kim Thompson: drums.

Title: Who Let the Cats Out? | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Heads Up International

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