By Cynthia Mullis

Mike Stern Band
with Dave Weckl, Anthony Jackson & Bob Franceschini

December 6-9, 2007

My day job in New York City in 1996 was working as a digital musical engraver. It was a strange esoteric niche of the publishing world that pushed the desktop publishing programs of the day into treacherous territory. I worked in a small two-person “sweatshop” called Chelsea Music Engraving which served clients such as Hal Leonard, Music Sales and Manhattan Music Publications. We used Finale on the Mac, plus a music typography program called SCORE on PC to create the musical notation, and merged the two into QuarkXpress to create the book layout. There was always a fire to be put out in that tiny little office but the fun part (in addition to the after-work martinis at the publishing hang) was seeing our finished music books in print on the shelves in the stores.

One book I worked on was the “Ultimate Play-Along for Guitar by Mike Stern.” This was a method book that consisted of transcriptions and analysis of his guitar solos on tunes that were written and recorded for this book. I entered the penciled out transcriptions (including TAB) into the programs to create the music manuscript for the final published form. During this particular project, my boss took a much needed vacation and left me in charge of the office for the week. The editors of the book were chomping at the bit for the finished manuscript and I was working fast and furious to meet their deadline. I literally had one hand on the Mac, one hand on the PC, a stream of sweat on my forehead and a serious headache by the time I finished turning Mike Stern solos into print-worthy notation.

Then, happy to meet the Thursday afternoon deadline, I called the editor to say that the manuscript was finished. The secretary answered the phone and said, “Oh, they all left for the Hamptons. Why don’t you just take it over to Mike’s place yourself?”

The Hamptons?!?! The freakin’ Hamptons?!?!

So I packed up the stack of paper and walked the half mile down 23rd Street in Manhattan to Mike Stern’s loft apartment. I sat there kind of dazed, kind of in awe, checking out Mike Stern’s pad as he looked over the manuscript of his solo transcriptions for his book. He liked it, expressed his appreciation, and said he’d call the editor when he got back from Japan. I left and went out for a martini.

So that’s my Mike Stern story. I still occasionally see that book on people’s bookshelves.

I’ve heard Mike Stern work out on standards at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village, blaze with the Brecker Brothers at Yoshi’s in 1992, and groove with David Sanborn. I dug his playing with early ‘80s Miles, mid-80s Steps Ahead, and his CD Standards (And Other Songs). I also heard him a couple of years ago at Jazz Alley playing from his excellent These Times CD and was not disappointed. He plays intricate, notey lines that draw the listener into their fractal-like details, while still alternately swinging his butt off and completely rocking out. This week’s show with Dave Weckl, Anthony Jackson, and Bob Franceschini will be a muscular, entertaining display of chops, grooves and tunes. So go enjoy a martini at Jazz Alley this week and check him out for yourself.

For tickets and/or more information, visit the Jazz Alley website.

Jazz Alley