ODDS OR EVENS, Mike Stern (Atlantic 7 82297-2): Mike Stern's "Odds or Evens" possesses a zesty edge and substantive depth that makes it work at any number of levels. It's music whose inital impact is made with rockish rhythms, steely ensemble lines, and Stern's wailing, electrified and electrifying guitar.
Beneath the beguiling surface is an array of improvisational gems whose design and execution are nothing short of brilliant. For that, credit Stern and his band of no-nonsense New Yorkers, saxophonist Bob Berg, bassists Anthony Jackson and Lincoln Goines, keyboardist Jim Beard, drummers Dennis Chambers and Ben Perowsky, plus percussionist Don Alias.
ONE OF the most fascinating aspects of Stern's music is its capacity to excite without resorting to the grandstanding garbage typically found in the excesses of both jazz and rock and, indeed, in classical where empty displays of mindless virtuosity short-circuit proceedings.
This is hardcore music delivered with a velvet glove wielded by a man who thinks as well as feels. It's music that reflects Stern's influences, primarily B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, as well as teachers Pat Metheny and Mick Goodrick, and such varied playing associates as Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius and Steps Ahead.
STERN'S LASERS are further propelled by long-time colleague and friend, saxophonist Bob Berg, whose volcanic outpourings though in the manner of the contemporary New York tenor school of Mike Brecker, Bob Mintzer and Joe Lovano are informed with a focused, screaming lyricism.
This also is the jazz of the future. And while it's nice that there's a brace of youngsters replowing the fertile fields of bebop, their task is essentially an exercise in learning the music's ABC's and tapping into the nostalgia of the 50-something/60-something generation who, down to a man (and woman), remember some long-ago night in a smoky roadhouse hearing Charlie Parker sitting in with the locals. That, too, is nice. But, if you really want to tap the vital core of today's jazz scene, it's the Mike Sterns and Bob Bergs of the world who merit attention.
EXHILARATION, Peter Leitch (Reservoir RSD CD 118): Though born in Ottawa and raised in Montreal, guitarist Peter Leitch has made his mark by proving himself time and time again among the giants inhabiting jazzdom's ultimate crucible, the Big Apple, New York City.
Leitch like early influences Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall and Rene Thomas, the exceptional Belgian guitarist possesses a warm round sound, fluid bop-shaped phrasings, and a sense of swing that sets toes tapping even on balladic cookers like the Thelonious Monk standard "Round Midnight."
In this digitally remastered reissue of sessions dating from both 1984 and 1988, the redoubtable Leitch is supported by the empathic passions of baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, pianist John Hicks, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Billy Hart. The chemistry is sublime, and spirited.
AMONG THE gems reset by Leitch is Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean," offered here as a wintry North Atlantic crossing in waltz-time with the leader's incisive lines illuminating the way.
There's a wonderful dialogue with bassist Drummond plumbing the structural guts of the Gershwins' "But Not For Me," while Leitch's penchant for Monk's quirky melodies is further explored in lovingly thoughtful parsings of "Trinkle Tinkle," "Played Twice" and "Pannonica."
Leitch's exuberant title track and his "Slugs in the Far East," the latter commemorating the popular and important New York jazz club active in the 1960s and early 1970s, reveal Leitch's considerable talents as a composer. In all, a highly appealing effort with excellent neo-bop forays by all.
BIORHYTHMS, Mick Goodrick (CMP CD 46): Guitarist Mick Goodrick certainly falls under the category of "talent deserving greater recognition." Though the 46-year-old master has worked and recorded to great effect with Gary Burton, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden and fellow guitarist Pat Metheny, he is perhaps still best described with the somewhat dubious tag, "a musicians' musician."
It could be that Goodrick is content with living the life of an artist sans the too well massaged trappings of such "musical media" personalities as the overly primped and over-esteemed Kronos Quartet or Harry Connick Jr., both, at best, mediocre "acts" who've insinuated themselves into the graces of the arts crowd with a ton of mousse, designer clothes and Actors Studio "sincerity." Well, so much the better for Goodrick, and his music!
In his latest release with bassist Harvie Swartz and drummer Gary Chaffee, Goodrick swirls through a program of bracing originals with passion and structural clarity. For "In Praise of Bass Desires" a tribute to the dashing contemporary jazz group of the same name led by bassist Mark Johnson the surface ambiance of progressive rock rhythms energizes improvisational trajectories that send bombs bursting in air. In all, a tremendously satisfying session worth listening to again, and again, and . . . .