Eclectic Guitar: Featuring Eric Johnson and Mike Stern
The union began when Stern asked Johnson to play on his 2009 Big Neighborhood album. "We had fun meeting each other and just hanging out and doing that, so I suggested we do something together again," Johnson explains. When the famed New York City Blue Note jazz club offered the two a double bill, "originally it was I'd do a set and Mike would do a set and then we'd then play a few songs together at the end of the night. I said, why don't we just form a band and do the whole thing together?"
"It worked perfectly and we had a ball." Stern enthuses. They followed the week of sold-out Blue Note shows last year – "a memorable night that no one in attendance will soon forget," says the Pottstown Mercury of the final evening – with dates at other top Northeast jazz clubs. "Our priorities have been different in the styles we play. I'm more steeped in traditional jazz but I like rock and there's blues in there that connects our playing. And he's more of a rock and blues player, but he has a lot of jazz in his playing too. We're both guys who like all kinds of music and are wide open."
Stern rose to winning Guitar Player magazine’s Certified Legend Award in 2012 after playing with such luminaries as Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorius, Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Brecker Brothers Band and others plus a now 25-year-plus solo career in which he has released 14 acclaimed and highly diverse recordings and won six Grammy nominations. Avidly collaborative, he's also made albums together with Bill Frissell and John Scofiled plus The Yellowjackets and consistently features an honor roll of noted guests and players on his recordings such as his latest, All Over The Place, released in 2010.
Johnson shot to international prominence after his 1986 debut album Tones landed him on the cover of Guitar Player magazine and then sealed his stature as “an extraordinary guitar player accessible to ordinary music fans" (Memphis Commercial Appeal) with his 1990 million-plus-selling Ah Via Musicom album and Grammy-winning Top 10 single "Cliffs of Dover." He is enshrined in Guitar Player's Gallery of Greats, boasts six Grammy nominations, and his latest and sixth studio album is 2010's Up Close, which featured such guests as Steve Miller, Jimmie Vaughan and Jonny Lang. He has also been mixing it up with a variety of other players in recent years on electric tours with Sonny Landreth, an acoustic outing with Andy McKee and Peppino D’Agostino, plus as a frequent featured artist on the Experience Hendrix tours.
"I'm really into doing stuff with other people because it just inspires me," says Stern. "I get off on that and other people's playing more than my own. It's really inspiring to play with someone whose priority isn't jazz but they have a lot of it in their heart, and they just play their asses off, like how Eric comes up with this fresh stuff when we play together because he's such a great improviser."
"I learn a lot from playing with Mike," enthuses Johnson. "He knows every Charlie Parker lick, and it kicks me in the butt and shakes my cage as we trade stuff. He's got such a great musical sense. It's opened me up and I'm really enjoying it."
Since "the distinct guitar stylings of Eric Johnson never cease to astound, amaze and entertain" (Vintage Rock) and Stern's plays "an inspired, eclectic, irresistible expression of music without borders" (Christian Science Monitor), the live dates promise incendiary moments presaging an exciting recording. The two will follow their album's release with tours together in late 2014 and early 2015.