Baha Men, take notice. There are some cats joining your loosed dogs courtesy of Mike Stern, jazz guitarist extraordinaire. This CD is a diverse mix of some heavy straight-ahead jazz combined with other variations of that and other genres (including rock) and is reminiscent of some Miles/Hargrove/even McLaughlin material. It has really spiffy, solid rhythms, good, clear, "runny" sax work, and searing riffs that greet you anywhere you turn on the musical scale. While I’m not a huge fan of this hugely innovative style of jazz, I find it to be refreshing and certainly a huge cornerstone of the very definition of this type of jazz expression.
Mike Stern is certainly no stranger to the jazz scene, by any stretch of the imagination. Having about 13 releases under his belt and a career spanning 30 years (the guy started as a guitarist with Blood, Sweat and Tears, for crying out loud!), his work includes relationships with Billy Cobham, Marcus Miller (the bassist of bassists), saxmen Bill Evans, David Sanborn, Michael Brecker and the musically omnipotent Miles Davis. He’s like one of those guitarists I steered clear of as a youngster playing rock & blues. Just too intimidatingly awesome for my young mind to handle (still is!).
Each cut on Cats, which features the likes of Meshell Ndegeocello, Roy Hargrove, Victor Wooten and Dave Weckl, is a unique innovative creation standing on its own two feet. This is an aural experience that you must be prepared to encounter when you plop it in your CD player and sit to chill. Anyone who claims that this form (and other forms) of jazz is anything but an art form to behold seriously and with the utmost respect for its artists (particularly one of Stern’s caliber) is living in a world outside our green planet! Stern fans will not be disappointed. Those open to free-flowing innovation will do well to spend a few minutes with this latest offering from an artist who insists on delivering all he has on each recording.