Category: Stern Mike

Mike Stern: Guitar to the stars . . . and Miles beyond

mikeSternMike Stern is truly one of the great guitarists of our age, equally comfortable in straight ahead jazz, fusion, and rock and roll—he has been in the news most recently for his collaborations with rock guitar hero Eric Johnson. Here is a typically honest 2013 interview in which he discusses much, including his time with Miles:

You mentioned Miles Davis. That must have actually been a difficult period for you in a way in that he was unwell and struggling. And that rock-fusion at the time was not well received by jazz critics. Do you look back on that period fondly?

Definitely. I loved it. People will say what they say, and Miles would always say people will catch on 10 years later with what he was doing. And that was kind of what happened. I wanted to play more bebop and he wanted me to rock. He liked the fact I was playing lines, but he wanted the volume.

I thought we could split the difference maybe and he would say ‘No, no. Let’s rock.’ And he’d always say, ‘Play me some Hendrix’. What he meant was, ‘Play your stuff, but with that attitude’. So I was playing a lot of lines and there was rock in there because I come from that.

It was great experience playing with him, he played so much from the heart. People say what they say but they’ve all turned around and people are discovering it now. He was always ahead of the time. And that always invites criticism. But he always told me, ‘Don’t worry about [criticism]’. So it was a great experience and the only thing is . . . Well, I finally did it sober. (laughs).

I was really messed up in those days and for some of it I was pretty trashed. But, for all that, some of it still came out good. Miles had a way of getting stuff out of people. Then I went back with him and the band was a bit different with keyboard players. That first group was really open with just guitar.

Then Sco [Scofield] played with us for a while. Me and Sco played together in that band, then I left and Sco did it for a while, then Miles added keyboards and I went back with that band when Sco left. It was still a great vibe but it was a little more structured, which is cool. But I liked the first band which was really open and fun. All of it was great because I got to play with him and Jaco Pastorius and Michael Brecker. It was amazing.

Click here to read Mike Stern: Guitar to the stars . . . and Miles beyond

—Peter Blasevick

2006 Mike Stern Interview With Jazz Guitar Life

mikeSternToday a very candid interview with guitarist Mike Stern. In 2006 he spoke with Lyle Robinson from JazzGuitarLife.com about his life and music, and in depth about his previous substance abuse:

JGL: I can imagine. Actually, using the cat metaphor and the whole nine lives thing, you’ve been very lucky in that you have had at least two lives so far given the personal issues you faced in the ‘80’s.

MS: Yeah man! It’s true…lol…at least I’m up to two. I don’t know if I have nine in me but I definitely have two…lol…and I’m certainly grateful that I have been able to do this. Do my own music and play with my own band. It’s definitely been with a lot of effort and I’m so grateful that I am able to do it ‘cause there are so many people who deserve to do it and who can’t do it for one reason or another. And it’s something that I’ll never take for granted. It’s been an honor to be able to play in different cities, different countries and with different people and to even play gigs and have people come to those gigs. And to be able to do my own records is an honor, without sounding too corny about it, it really is, and I don’t take it lightly at all and I am very grateful for it. You were mentioning the two lives kind of thing…that’s something I’m definitely grateful for, that I was able to get sober ‘cause that wasn’t a slam-dunk either you know. I was really deep in the other shit and getting high in every way possible and deep into as you can imagine without going into detail but it was all day long with everything out there and I got really strung out…and for years. It took me years to learn how to play music sober. I had never really done it since I was about 13 years old…I had never really experienced played music sober. I had always had a few drinks in me or I would smoke some pot or I’d get into some deeper shit. So for about twenty years I was always high. Miles used to say…well, someone in the band asked “where’s Mike?” And someone replied “he’s probably getting high someplace.” And Miles said (in a hoarse whisper) “Mike don’t get high, Mike stays high”…lol…he knew what was going on, and I was really crazy in those days so I’m really grateful to be alive.

Click here to read 2006 Mike Stern Interview With Jazz Guitar Life

—Peter Blasevick

The Jazz Session #91: Mike Stern

mikeSternHere is a cool 2009 talk with Mike Stern from Jason Crane’s JazzSession podcast archive. So many great interviews there, check it out.

“Guitarist Mike Stern has played with everyone. And yes, that includes Miles Davis. After decades in the business, he could easily be resting on his laurels. Instead, he’s pushing himself into new territory, as displayed on his CD Big Neighborhood (Heads Up, 2009), which finds him in the company of everyone from Esperanza Spaulding to Randy Brecker to Eric Johnson to Steve Vai. In this interview, Stern talks about why he likes surrounding himself with fresh ideas; his rockin’ side and his lyrical side; and how guitarist Hiram Bullock once blew Michael Brecker’s mind.”

Click here to listen to The Jazz Session #91: Mike Stern

For Mike Stern’s 61st Birthday, a 2003 Downbeat Feature

Mike Stern is 61 years old? Yikes.

mikeSternToday a 2003 piece on Stern that Ted Panken wrote for Downbeat. Also included is a link to a 2009 interview Panken did with Stern for Jazz.com From the Downbeat piece, the great guitarist discusses Miles:

“One thing about Miles that always impressed me is that he always played music he wanted to play,” Stern says. “While I was with Miles, he was offered a fortune to play with Ron Carter and Tony Williams in Japan. But he was just interested in what he was doing, and didn  want to be swayed. At the same time, he always had this balance of wanting to reach people. That’s in all his music. Somebody who doesn’t  really know jazz can still get Miles Davis. And balance is always important to me, however I come up with it.”

Click here to read For Mike Stern’s 61st Birthday, a 2003 Downbeat Feature