Mike and Leni Stern light up Ronnie Scott’s for EFG London Jazz Festival late set thriller

What an unexpected pleasure to see Mike Stern exchanging guitar riffs with his wife Leni. This was just one surprise from a gig that also saw Stern share the stage with fellow Miles Davis bass alumni Darryl Jones.

Back in 1982 the BBC televised a live Miles gig from Hammersmith Odeon, a truly exciting event for any jazz fan – a chance to witness a real-life legend. We knew we were not going to be hearing ‘If I Were a Bell’ or ‘Freedie Freeloader’ – but the playing and sight of long-haired guitarist Mike Stern, alongside Marcus Miller and saxophonist Bill Evans, was still a surprise. He had a formidable technique but with more overt hard-rock references than many anticipated. Once again Miles had got ahead of the game.

Since those heady days, Stern has written so many exciting hard-bopping heads that it can be quite challenging to distinguish them all. Through his solos he delivers long skittering lines at an impossible speed, but also with surprising delicacy. At times on this gig it was like following the POV footage of a champion skier accelerating away down a vertiginous slope, flying over every bump and hollow, getting airborne, but then landing back with perfect grace. Bassist Jones, who played with Miles in the early 1980s (before joining Sting’s band), the man behind the deep grooves on albums like Decoy, gave brilliant, bouncy support with flamboyant flourishes. For quite a while Jones has been the Rolling Stones’ bassist, but he wasn’t alone in the super-group stakes. Drummer Keith Carlock is Steely Dan’s pick behind the kit, and his incredibly powerful yet precise playing brought to mind Steve Gadd’s killer solo on Aja.

Mike Stern CH2

Bob Malach on tenor sax, complemented Stern’s exuberance by playing with space, digging into the rhythm section. He has an eloquent darker sound with sudden growls and screams of pure old time R&B amid more Brecker-esque modern influences. He again has a star-studded CV: Horace Silver, Stanley Clarke, Joe Zawinul, Stevie Wonder… He joined Stern in jazz-nerd solo-quote trading: ingenious insertions of fragments of ‘Seven Steps to Heaven’ (Feldman/Davis), ‘Witch Hunt’ (Shorter) and a few show standards brought smiles of recognition from band members and audience.

There were plenty of other smiles too: this was a group that clearly gets on and overcomes a gruelling tour schedule with humour and camaraderie. And despite having to get an 8am flight to Paris, they were happy to talk to well-wishers long after the set was over.

Leni Stern, a superb guitarist and fine singer whose voice has been described as somehow “blending Marlene Dietrich and Billie Holiday” (!), was not billed to appear but made telling contributions. Her interest in the music of Mali was in evidence on the set’s opener; a simple, emotive tune featuring her on Ngoni, a Malian string-instrument, and lit up by a warm, unfussy vocal. She was to return later for a supremely funky guitar solo on Miles’s ‘Jean-Pierre’ (over a deliciously dirty Jones/Carlock groove) and a rocking rendition of Hendrix’s ‘Red House’, sung by Mike between blistering solo breaks.

Standout tracks from the rest of the set included a burning ‘Out of the Blue’ from 2012’s All Over the Place; and the darker, mid-tempo ‘You Never Know’ from 1996’s Between the Lines. There were also tunes from Stern’s most recent CD, Trip, recorded once he’d recovered from breaking both arms in an accident just two-and-a-half years ago. Recovery is not yet total… he has some tendon damage and still has to play with his plectrum glued to his finger. Not that you’d notice in his playing.

– Adam McCulloch

– Photos by Carl Hyde

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Mehldau Marvels At Jazztopad

  The entire spectrum can dazzle at Jazztopad, a Polish festival in...

Read More.....

Jazz FM Awards return for 2019

The Jazz FM Awards return for a sixth time next...

Read More.....

Chick Corea, Madeleine Peyroux and Kamaa…

The organisers of the Love Supreme Jazz Festival, which runs...

Read More.....

Peter Boizot 1929 – 2018

The press obituaries for Peter Boizot, who has died aged...

Read More.....

David Mossman – 17 July 1942 - 8 Decembe…

Ahead of starting the Vortex in 1988, there is nothing...

Read More.....

Greg Fox and Pulverize The Sound punish …

  The second phase of Poland’s Jazz Jantar festival involved five nights...

Read More.....

Astral Progression Ensemble and Irrevers…

  Jazz Jantar has been running in the northern Polish port...

Read More.....

Tippett & Bourne, Liane Carroll and…

The Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival will return for its...

Read More.....

Jessica Radcliffe poised an poetic for R…

In this centenary year of the end of the First...

Read More.....

Iridescent Ibrahim Leads Multi-Horn Boon…

The Barbican's foyer is still resounding to the tumultuous multi-horned...

Read More.....

Maisha raise Afro-futurist spirits at Gh…

Scrolling down the posts on Facebook, from people pleading for...

Read More.....

John McLaughlin and 4th Dimension Back F…

Legendary jazz-rock guitarist John McLaughlin has just announced a return...

Read More.....

Dave Douglas Supergroup Dazzles Among Ho…

  Guimarães is Portugal’s birthplace. Surrounded by verdant hills, this quiet...

Read More.....

Bill Laurance Goes Big At Southbank With…

  At certain moments during this concert, Bill Laurance looks like...

Read More.....

Trans-Atlantic Team-Up: Chicago X London…

Much has been written about the jazz scene that has...

Read More.....

Dalston Devils: Branch and Brandon Lewis…

The Vortex and Cafe OTO are separated by a few...

Read More.....

Mike and Leni Stern light up Ronnie Scot…

What an unexpected pleasure to see Mike Stern exchanging guitar...

Read More.....

22-year-old saxophonist Xhosa Cole wins …

Saxophonist Xhosa Cole has been announced as the winner of...

Read More.....

Braxton and Marclay Broker New Sonic Exp…

  The UK premiere of Anthony Braxton's 'Composition No 103' (1983)...

Read More.....

Delay-gratification – Bill Frisell’s spe…

Bill Frisell isn't much of a talker. The music is...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy, Jamie Cullum and Gladys Kn…

The first artists have been revealed for next year's Love...

Read More.....

Archie Shepp’s Art Songs & Spiritual…

This evening gets off to a flying start with Simon...

Read More.....

Gregory Porter, Joshua Redman, The Bad P…

The first names have been revealed for next year's Cheltenham...

Read More.....

Billy Harper charges up Church Of Sound

A house of praise is the perfect setting for one...

Read More.....

Ezra Collective Get Sweaty And Prophetic…

  "This is about joy and happiness and celebrating everything that's...

Read More.....

GoGo Penguin: Kings Of The Bill Take Fli…

  The Concorde usually hosts mid-ranking rock bands or popular club...

Read More.....

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace…

Fast emerging saxophonist Helena Kay is set to release her...

Read More.....

Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan P…

A wet afternoon in the 'Big Smoke' is brightened by...

Read More.....

Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fes…

The Enjoy Jazz festival is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary...

Read More.....

Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays…

  Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases...

Read More.....

Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG Lon…

With the full programme confirmed for this year's EFG London...

Read More.....

Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Ko…

There is already a sense of excitement in the air...

Read More.....

Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note…

The 37th edition of what is a key date on...

Read More.....

Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronn…

The old joke that the audience will have a chance...

Read More.....

Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among th…

The English music critic Richard Williams finished his three-year stint...

Read More.....

A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin ta…

Alyn Shipton spoke to Pelin Opcin, the EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

In the Round is an annual series of intimate performances at the @RoundhouseLDN that sees the venue transformed wit… https://t.co/aakTUMvohk
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Mehldau Marvels At Jazztopad https://t.co/5dh463wBww @Jazztopad @bradmehldau @NonesuchRecords @EspeSpalding… https://t.co/YN3S9PBGRJ
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA