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Mike Stern at the Jazz Cafe, 3 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Fortitude is the theme for guitarist Mike Stern this year.

Back in July of 2016 Stern broke both of his arms and sustained nerve damage in his right hand after tripping just outside his apartment building in New York on his way to hail a cab. Stern had to cancel a European tour that was about to start but after two surgeries and therapy he recuperated and recovered enough to record his 17th album -- titled, of course, "Trip" -- and to get back on the road with his own band.

Stern, 64, acknowledges that he's a little worse for the wear and maybe not 100 percent of his pre-injury self, but listening to "Trip" you wouldn't think a thing is wrong with the veteran player...

After the accident, Stern says by phone that "it's still tricky to play, but I'm able to do it, and music is the best (cure) for everything. So when I'm playing I feel the best I can feel. But it's still a (expletive) drag because it's painful kind of all the time, and I kinda deal with that. It's been incredibly frustrating, but much less than it was when I first started playing again, so it's getting a lot better. People tell me they can't hear the difference; I hear the difference in certain things, but as long as it's in the groove and it sounds decent, any of the little, tiny personal stuff I can just let go of for now."

Stern does, however, have a valuable perspective on his condition via his wife and fellow guitar master Leni Stern, who guests on two tracks on the album. "My wife is a breast cancer survivor 30 years ago," Stern says. "She went on the road when she was still on chemo and kept playing and everything. So after that, I can't wimp out, y'know?" Stern was also inspired by drummer Lenny White, who plays on "Trip" and has suffered nerve damage of his own over the years that he's found ways to overcome.

Stern had plenty of material ready for "Trip" when the time came to record, yielding a diverse set of songs that ranges from the kind of jazz fusion he played when he was in Miles Davis' band to swing, ballads and world music -- as well tracks such as "Screws" and "Scotch Tape And Glue" that reference his post-accident recovery. "I like the fact there's a lot of variety," Stern -- who also sings on the album -- says, "but I think it hangs together because I wrote all of it and, of course, I'm playing on all of it. I usually go in with a bunch of tunes; Writing is just as important as anything else for me, so I try to write all the tunes and have a lot ready for when it's time to do another record. And there's usually a lot of variety in what I write."

If You Go:

Mike Stern & Bill Evans Band

8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4.

The Jazz Cafe inside the Music Hall Center, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit.

Tickets are $30.

Call 313-887-8500 or visit musichall.org.

Web Site: www.musichall.org

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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