by Ferell Aubre
Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber join forces on a powerfully conceived new album titled Eleven. Though crossing paths when Stern was a part of Miles Davis’ group in the early ‘80s. Lorber remembers, “I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, Jeff Lorber Fusion and Miles Davis were playing some of the same festivals back then, so I got to hear him play.” Stern who himself has kept a busy recording pace with 18 albums under his belt, and past tenure in groups led by Jaco Pastorius, Michael Brecker and Joe Henderson as well as groups like Steps Ahead, Vital Information and the Brecker Brothers offered up, “To be honest, I was aware of him, and had heard a bunch of good things, but I had never really checked him out. We were just in different orbits, me and Jeff.” Thankfully their orbits have collided, joined by an all-star cast of Dave Weckl: drums, Jimmy Haslip: bass; Vinnie Colauita: drums, Dave Mann: trumpet; Gary Novak: drums; Leni Stern: n’goni and Bob Francheshini: sax. Together they form a fashionably contemporary sound with an edge that cuts with precision and bite.
Opening with a relaxed groove of contemporary jazz “Righteous” certainly is aptly titled. The horns accent the melody as Stern and Lorber take us through the various textures of the melody. Lorber’s trademark electric piano sound is instantly recognizable as he takes the first solo. The energy of the band steadily builds as the form unfolds it various ensemble sections. The band relaxes to introduce Stern, who’s sound is also instantly recognizable. The track segues between written ensemble passages and improvised sections from Stern and Lorber. This tune is not about blowing, but it is all about the groove, and groove it does!
“Jones Street” is a Stern original that was first released on his 1997 album Give and Take. This time the tempo is taken a little brisker, but the added energy fits the vamp and snaking melody very nicely. Weckl brings a whole new dimension to the tune, his drumming has so many elements that are essentially a drum ensemble unto itself. Lober’s style fits the feel and his swift passages bring out interesting linear aspects of the harmony, and just like Stern, he is an instantly recognizable quantity. The composition is excellent, as usual, Stern is a master at creating a form that has interesting sections and surprises. Stern stomps on the distortion and goes for it. His solo is filled with his signature bends and chromatic chatter that builds to a satisfying climax. This is a great tune that shows everyone’s chops and gives the album a nice energy lift.
The fusing of Stern and Lorber is a providential affair, all the groove you could imagine and the chops to back it up. Each player on this date has countless hours on the bandstand and it shows on each delightfully engaging track. There simply is not a bad track on Eleven, as each performance offers its own intuitive grandeur. A worthy album worth partaking of and do yourself and the artist a favor. Buy it! Over and out!