In the summer of 1986, Stern went out on the road with David Sanborn and later joined an electrified edition of Steps Ahead which featured Mike Mainieri on midi vibes, Michael Brecker on the Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI), Darryl Jones on electric bass and Steve Smith on drums. Stern made his first recording as a leader for the Japanese Trio label (1985's Neesh) before making his debut on Atlantic Records in 1986 with Upside Downside, featuring such celebrated colleagues as Sanborn, Pastorius, saxophonist Bob Berg, bassists Mark Egan and Jeff Andrews, keyboardist Mitch Forman and drummers Dave Weckl and Steve Jordan. From 1986 through 1988, Mike was a member of Michael Brecker's potent quintet, appearing on Don't Try This At Home. Stern's second Atlantic album, 1988's Time In Place, continued the promise of his debut. He followed that in succession with 1989's Jigsaw and 1991's Odds Or Evens, both of which ably showcased his legendary guitar prowess and musicality. During this period he also formed a touring group with saxophonist Berg that included drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Lincoln Goines. They remained a working unit from 1989 to 1992, at which point Stern joined a reunited Brecker Brothers Band, appearing on 1992's Return of the Brecker Brothers. (Other notable sideman credits include work with the late, great tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson and the recent live recording 4 Generations of Miles, in which the guitarist joins with other Miles Davis alumni George Coleman on tenor sax, Jimmy Cobb on drums and Ron Carter on bass).
Mike's acclaimed 1993 Atlantic Jazz release, Standards (And Other Songs), led to him being named Best Jazz Guitarist of the Year by the readers and critics of Guitar Player magazine. He followed that up with two hard-hitting offerings in 1994's Is What It Is and 1996's Between The Lines, both of which received Grammy nominations. In 1997, Stern recorded Give And Take with bassist John Patitucci, drummer Jack DeJohnette, percussionist Don Alias and special guests Michael Brecker and David Sanborn. Their freewheeling covers of Sonny Rollins' "Oleo", John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" Cole Porter's "I Love You" and Jimi Hendrix's "Who Knows" helped Mike earn the Orville W. Gibson Award for Best Jazz Guitarist that year. Stern's ninth release for Atlantic was a six-string summit meeting with colleagues Bill Frisell and John Scofield that was appropriately titled Play. 2001's Voices, his first foray into vocal music, earned Mike his third Grammy nomination. And now he ups the ante with These Times. Stern's 12th release as a leader and debut on ESC Records stands as one of the best of his career.
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