Eric Johnson / Mike Stern

Eclectic

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The seed for this project was planted when Eric Johnson played on a few tracks for Mike Stern's 2009 album Big Neighborhood. The two guitarists discovered a shared affinity for jazz and blues, along with those two genres' rambunctious stepchildren, R&B and funk, and both players had always embraced a stylish fusion approach to their respective work. It seems only obvious and natural that they do a full album together. Eclectic was recorded in mostly live takes at Johnson's studio in Austin, Texas, and included a rhythm section of drummer Anton Fig and Johnson's longtime bassist Chris Maresh, along with guest spots from singers Malford Milligan, Leni Stern (Mike Stern's wife), and Christopher Cross, blues harpist Guy Forsyth, and a horn section of John Mills (saxophone), Mike Mordecai (trombone), and Andrew Johnson (trumpet). The versatility on display here from track to track is impressive, ranging from blues to Wes Montgomery-inspired guitar jazz, new age fusion shuffles, and huge-sounding, jazz-inspired big-band imaginary soundtrack themes, and there's no lack of amazing guitar playing, both guitarists blending and flowing together like the two edges of a single river. Highlights include the opener, Stern's driving, jazzy, and funky "Roll with It" (it turns out Stern has a pretty good singing voice, by the way), the lovely, haunting, and chiming "Wishing Well," Johnson's "Hullabaloo" (which sounds like the opening theme to some long-lost Hollywood-based 1960s detective show), Stern's modal "Remember" (modeled on John Coltrane's "Impressions"), and the set's closer, a reverent and vibrant take on Jimi Hendrix's "Red House," which brings everything back to the late-night jazzy approach to the blues that Johnson and Stern both hold so dear.

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