Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Mike SternHeads Up HUI-33186-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance ***1/2
Sound Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2


Jazz guitarist Mike Stern is probably known best for his stints with Miles Davis in the 1980s, but he’s also played with Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius, and Michael Brecker. That’s a typical résumé for a musician who didn’t immediately jump into leadership or stardom, and it’s the sort of background that breeds versatility. Stern’s new disc, All Over the Place, is his 15th, and the title might be a nod to the variety of compositions and settings Stern has given himself to stretch out in. He’s brought in a broad spectrum of jazz musicians to help develop the 11 compositions here, all by Stern, and each brings a key element to one or more of the tunes. The surprise is that a disc made up of so many combinations of musicians and styles hangs together so consistently.

Stern gives bassist Anthony Jackson a nod with "AJ," a funky workout in which Jackson takes the central role in the song’s ebb and flow. Solo time goes to Stern and saxophonist Chris Potter, with both players digging deep into the blues. The two exchange solos near the end of the track, and ideas flow so easily that it never descends into a shooting match, but builds in intensity and inspiration. "Cameroon" has a Weather Report groove enhanced by the singing of Richard Bona, who hails from that African country and also plays bass on this track. The tune’s infectious bounce gives Stern a platform for an extended upbeat workout. Bona, percussionist Tim Keiper, and drummer Dave Weckl play tightly through the complex rhythms, and Bob Franceschini’s slightly grittier saxophone solo adds an edge to and concludes the track.

A nylon-string guitar sets the tone for "As Far As We Know," which features a beautiful wordless vocal by Esperanza Spalding, who also contributes acoustic bass. Stern plays a touching, restrained solo, and drummer Lionel Cordew’s deft brushwork and gentle cymbal accents provide subtle underpinning. Drummer Al Foster and bassist Dave Holland are on hand for two hard-bop tracks, "Blues for Al" and "OCD." Both blues-based songs feature inspired turns on saxophone by Kenny Garrett, who carefully builds his solos to create tension and drama. Stern’s solos include long melodic flights interjected with complex chord runs that demonstrate both his command of jazz guitar and his knowledge of its history. Holland and Foster sit in on another acoustic ballad, "You Never Told Me."

Jim Beard produced All Over the Place and plays keyboards on all tracks; his support gives these arrangements the harmonic foundation they need. Other musicians, including bassist Will Lee and Leni Stern (Mike’s wife, and herself an accomplished guitarist) bring their unique personalities to Stern’s tunes. The recordings and some postproduction took place in different studios, but Greg Calbi’s mastering gives the disc a cohesive, open, very immediate sound.

Mike Stern is a flashy guitarist, but he brings so much melody and elegance to his playing that he never bores with technique, and he shares time generously with other musicians. Despite its title, All Over the Place offers 11 examples of the work of a focused musician whose interests range as widely as his talent.

. . . Joseph Taylor