"All the sparks and searing interplay you'd expect from a summit meeting of three
of the most influential guitarists of their generation"
- Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times
, his ninth release on Atlantic Jazz, Mike Stern
summons up more fretboard magic in a six-string summit meeting with
fellow guitarists John Scofield
. Drummers Ben Perowsky
and Dennis Chambers
bassist Lincoln Goines
, tenor saxophonist Bob Malach
keyboardist/producer Jim Beard
round out the cast on this
gathering of three of the most influential and respected guitarists of
"They're two of my favorite musicians who just happen to be
, Stern says of his colleagues Scofield and
Frisell. "It's been interesting to watch them try different things
over the years and still keep their own unique musical voices. And
that has certainly inspired me to keep on doing that myself. So it was
great to finally get a chance to do a project like this. We're all
really close and have a long history together so that was naturally a
big part of it ... the fun vibe in the studio. And I think the music
came out sounding like that - kind of playful".
The Grammy-nominated guitarist showcases his signature scorching
licks and lyrical visibility alongside fellow guitar hero Scofield on
the swinging minor blues "Play"
, the New Orleans flavored
groover "Small World"
and the bop 'n' roll romp "Outta
. The four tracks with Frisell - "Blue Tone"
and "Big Kids"
- were recorded in
Bill's hometown of Seattle with Perowsky, Goines and Beard. The
remaining three tracks - "Tipitina's"
- feature Stern with his current working band of
Chambers, Goines and Malach.
Stern had glowing praise for his bandmates. "Bob Malach is such
a terrific tenor saxophone player and one of my absolute
favorites. The more I hear him play the more I'm knocked out. He's
got like an endless vocabulary and he just plays great. And of course,
Dennis Chambers is someone I've played with for ages and I love his
playing. We just finished a tour and he was killing, as usual. And
what's scary is, he keeps getting better and better. Lincoln Goines,
I've been playing with him for years and he's always great. He's one
of those guys who can play the electric bass and swing in a really
convincing way where is sounds like an upright conception. And when
he funks, it's definitely funky."
A real treat for guitar aficionados, Play
these three very distinctive musical personalities whose paths have
crossed on a number of occasions over the past 20 years. Although
they first met in Boston in the early '70s, Scofield and Stern didn't
play together until the early '80s in a band led by bassist Peter
Warren. They later shared the bandstand in Miles Davis' band,
appearing on the trumpeter's 1983 release Star People
. They have also
recorded together on drummer Motohiko Hino
's 1995 release,
. Mike's association with Frisell goes back to their
days together as students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
"We used to play together literally every day when we were both
going to Berklee"
, Stern recalls. "I used to drag Bill over to
my apartment or I'd go over to his apartment and we'd play standards
all day long. We also played some gigs around Boston together with
(trumpeter) Tiger Okoshi or (saxophonist) George Garzone, or sometimes
just duo. So we played a bunch together and we have a long personal
history. In fact, I met my wife Leni through Bill Frisell".
Stern explains that in writing the material for Play
in mind the unique qualities of his colleagues. "Billy's stuff
... I think of him coming from a more textural point of view, almost
like a piano player on the guitar. He's also got a very lyrical side
to his playing that is really pretty and very atmospheric, and there's
a couple of tunes that reflect that. Sco has a real affinity for
blues, funk and bebop, which is something that we have in common. And
we both kind of go for those hornlike lines, so I wrote with that in
Stern adds that the natural chemistry between drummer Perowsky and
bassist Goines helped the tracks with the two guitarists go down
quickly and easily. "Ben is really a special player in that he's so
versatile. He goes between different styles of music in a very
convincing way with a very personal voice. And mainly, he swings his
track by track comments:
- It's basically a minor blues, a very familiar form where
we wouldn't have to think too much about the changes so we could just
go for it in the studio and get a vibe going between everybody. When I
wrote this, I was thinking, "this would be a great one for me and
Sco." I solo first then he tears it up as the second soloist and we
take the tune out. I also think Ben and Lincoln sound beautiful on
- It's a second line tune which has a Sco-ish
vibe to it. I've heard him play this kind of groove before and I
thought he would sound great on it. It's also got a little pop flavor
to it too ... kind of a singable melody.
- This is a bebop head that I wrote over the
changes to the standard tune "Have You Met Miss Jones." Right away I
figured that Sco would know that tune or that he certainly had played
it at some point. So it was familiar ground. We played it loose and
traded at the end, and Sco just tore it up.
- I figured that Bill would sound great on this
ballad. I was actually calling it "Frizz Tone" for a while, which has
been my nickname for him. We recorded it live with a real spontaneous
feel to it and then Bill overdubbed one of his trademark tape loops
which comes in and out of the tune every so often and adds a real
- My band had been playing this tune for a while
before I had a title, and then somebody reminded me of this gig I had
done with Jaco Pastorius at Tipitina's (a popular New Orleans
nightclub) a long time ago. Although we were in new Orleans we ended
up playing more James Brown influenced funk stuff on that gig. This
tune has a little bit of a New Orleans feel to it but then it gets
into this more funk groove. The title was kind of personal to me ...
not so much about the club as the night that I played there with
- Bill plays electric guitar just comping behind
the melody, and then he adds some acoustic guitar parts. We did it in
just one take and really nailed it. An then Bill brings his own unique
textures to it with the acoustic overdubs.
- This one highlights Bill's Monish side. It's just a
blues but it's got a quirky head. And it's a fun tune and there's a
lot of interplay going on. Bill has a lot of humor in his playing and
it really comes through on this track. Once again, it's a familiar
form so we could just stretch out and play.
- This is another band tune. It's mainly named for
Lincoln Goines but there's also a link to a tune that is a personal
favorite of mine, Cedar Walton's "Bolivia." I took a slight variation
of that bass line to that tune and wrote a different tune over the top
- That's a slow, bluesy tune that I kind of
wanted to record with my band. And because we had been playing so much
together on the road I developed a great musical rapport with them. So
this is one that just kind of fell into place right away in the
- This a funk tune with a bebopish line over the
top of it. Bill and I play the form together and at the end we take it
out a little bit. Yeah, it was fun to let loose like that.
Reprinted with permission from the good folks at mikestern.org