This is jazz guitarist Mike Stern’s first album featuring vocalists, hence the title. Yet these are not songs of heartfelt, poetic lyrics. Rather, the voices are used as instruments, carrying the melody line, bopping along with the bass, and harmonizing with Stern’s omnipresent guitar.
It’s a fascinating experiment. Stern is joined by vocalists Richard Bona of Cameroon, Jon Herington, Elizabeth Kontomanou, and Arto Tuncboyaciyan, as well as a solid band of drums, saxes, keyboards, and bass. And the result is a multilayered dialogue between instruments of all kinds, creating the power of an orchestra.
Some might dub this Stern’s “world music” album due to the Africa influences of some of the vocalists and Stern’s own compositions. Others may wonder how Stern steered off on this course after his tour-de-force album, Standards (And Other Songs) from ’92 featuring his modern reworkings of classic jazz songs.
The answer is simply that Stern is a guitarist and composer with depth who seeks to build his repertoire and grow as an artist. This is an album of jazz fused with World music that brings out the best in both.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.