Mike Stern does what he does very, very well. He has carved out a unique niche for himself among modern fusion guitarists, a vision that combines funk and R&B bass/drum grooves with skittish melodies often involving extended chord fragments. Stern's lead voice is one of the most distinctive in the genre as well, as his chorused and sometimes distorted tone is always prominently displayed.
Like all the legends he ever worked for or with, from Miles Davis to Jaco Pastorius, Billy Cobham to the Brecker Brothers, the five-time Grammy nominee has learned over the course of his 26-year recording career – 33 since he got his breakthrough gig with Blood, Sweat & Tears – something about the nuanced art of collaboration. Not only does it take a village to make a great, boundary-stretching jazz recording, the wild excursions on his second Heads Up date seem to be shouting, as it actually involves a whole Big Neighborhood. This CD was up for a Grammy as “Best Contemporary Jazz Instrumental Album” in 2010.
Tenor saxophonist Bob Berg channeled the bold dynamics of hard bop to emerge as one of contemporary jazz's most expressive and resourceful improvisers, honing a richly articulated sound bolstered by flawless technical command. Born in New York City on April 7, 1951, Berg grew up in Brooklyn, initiating piano lessons at age six. At 13, he moved to alto saxophone, first discovering jazz when a high school teacher introduced him to the music of Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver.
Who Let the Cats Out? may be Stern’s most fully realized record to date. It consolidates the many musical directions he’s explored on past records, but there are fresh developments as well. There’s the second line rhythm of “Roll With It,” which he first explored on Play (Atlantic, 1999). There are examples of his longstanding approach to writing serpentine post bop themes fused with rock energy.