6X GRAMMY® nominated jazz / jazz-fusion guitarist & composer
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In a career that spans three decades and a discography that includes more than a dozen eclectic and innovative recordings, six-time GRAMMY nominee Mike Stern has established himself as one of the premier jazz and jazz-fusion guitarists and composers of his generation.
Born in Boston in January 1953, Stern grew up in Washington, DC, then returned to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music. After college, he got his start as a guitar player with Blood, Sweat & Tears at age 22. Following a brief stint with Billy Cobham’s powerhouse fusion band from 1979 to 1980, he moved to New York City, where he was recruited by Miles Davis to play a key role in Miles’ celebrated comeback band of 1981 (which also included bassist Marcus Miller, drummer Al Foster, percussionist Mino Cinelu and saxophonist Bill Evans). During his three-year period with Miles, Stern appeared on three recordings with the jazz maestro – Man with the Horn, Star People and the live We Want Miles. He toured with Jaco Pastorius’ Word of Mouth Band from 1983 through 1985 and returned to Miles’ lineup for a second tour of duty that lasted close to a year.
In 1985, Stern recorded Neesh, his first recording as a leader, for the Japan-based Trio label. A year later, he made his debut on Atlantic with Upside Downside, featuring such celebrated colleagues as David Sanborn, Jaco Pastorius, saxophonist Bob Berg, bassists Mark Egan and Jeff Andrews, keyboardist Mitch Forman and drummers Dave Weckl and Steve Jordan. Over the next two years, Stern was a member of Michael Brecker’s potent quintet, appearing on Don't Try This At Home.
After 15 years with Atlantic, Stern shifted to ESC for the 2004 release of These Times, an eclectic set that included guest appearances by some high-profile session players – bassist Richard Bona, saxophonist Kenny Garrett and banjoist Bela Fleck.
Stern joined Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, with the August 2006 release of Who Let the Cats Out? Regardless of who let them out, the cats are indeed loose on this album, and making a serious noise. Included on the guest roster are bassists Richard Bona (who handles vocals on two tracks), Anthony Jackson, Meshell Ndegeocello, Chris Minh Doky and Victor Wooten, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bob Malach, drummers Dave Weckl and Kim Thompson, harmonica player Gregoire Maret, and keyboardist/producer Jim Beard. Stern received his 4th GRAMMY nomination for Who Let The Cats Out?.
In February 2009, in the first in a series of articles to celebrate DownBeat’s 75th anniversary, Stern was named to the venerable jazz magazine’s list of 75 Great Guitarists. The list spotlights many all-time great jazz, blues and beyond guitarists and shows the wide-ranging influence that the guitar has had on music since it made its way into jazz in the 1920s.
In August 2009, Stern released Big Neighborhood. Aiding him in this latest chapter in his never-ending quest for the new and better groove is a long list of talented guests: guitarists Steve Vai and Eric Johnson; bassist-vocalists Esperanza Spalding and Richard Bona; jamband godfathers Medeski Martin & Wood; drummers Dave Weckl, Terri Lyne Carrington, Cindy Blackman Santana and Lionel Cordew; bassists Chris Minh Doky and Lincoln Goines, saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bob Malach, trumpeter Randy Brecker and keyboardist/producer Jim Beard. Big Neighborhood was also nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.
Stern was presented with Guitar Player magazine’s Certified Legend Award on January 21, 2012. This was given to him at the Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar night where he performed with Lee Ritenour. Past GP Legends include Les Paul, Duane Eddy, Dick Dale, Larry Carlton, and Tommy Emmanuel.
Releases in June 2012, All Over the Place is Stern’s latest recording. The 11-song set aligns the characteristically diverse and adventurous guitarist with a cadre of brilliant guests, including keyboardist/producer Jim Beard; trumpeter Randy Brecker; rhythm guitarist Leni Stern (Mike’s wife); saxophonists Kenny Garrett, Chris Potter, Bob Franceschini and Bob Malach; and drummers Dave Weckl, Keith Carlock, Lionel Cordew, Al Foster, Kim Thompson and percussionist Tim Keiper. Also on hand is a delegation of high-caliber electric and acoustic bass players: Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson, Dave Holland, Tom Kennedy, Will Lee and Victor Bailey.