|Eric Johnson & Mike Stern|
Eric Johnson & Mike Stern — Eclectic
♦♦ Acclaimed players find common ground on their first~ever collaboration.
Birth name: Michael Sedgwick
Born: January 10, 1953, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Michael´s notable instruments:
♦♦ Yamaha PA511MS
♦♦ Fender Telecaster
Eric Johnson, also known as: "EJ"
Born: August 17, 1954, Austin, Texas, US
♦♦ Fender Stratocaster
♦♦ Fender Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster
♦♦ Dunlop Eric Johnson Signature Fuzz Face
♦♦ Eminence EJ1250 Guitar Speaker
Location: Austin, Texas
Album release: October 27, 2014
Record Label: Heads Up
01 Roll With It 5:23
02 Remember 6:27
03 Benny Man 4:30
04 Wishing Well 7:38
05 Big Foot (With Intro) 7:08
06 Tidal 5:27
07 You Never Know 6:41
08 Dry Ice 6:52
09 Sometimes 8:08
10 Hullabaloo 3:11
11 Wherever You Go (With Intro) 6:06
12 Red House 4:51
© Eric Johnson. All rights reserved.
♦♦ Eric Johnson (guitars, synthesizer, piano, vocal),
♦♦ Mike Stern (guitars, vocal),
♦♦ Chris Maresh (electric and acoustic bass),
♦♦ Anton Fig (drums, percussion)
Plus special guests:
♦♦ Malford Milligan (vocal),
♦♦ Christopher Cross (background vocal),
♦♦ Leni Stern (n'goni, vocal),
♦♦ Guy Forsyth (harmonica),
♦♦ James Fenner, Wayne Salzmann II (percussion),
♦♦ Mike Mordecai (trombone),
♦♦ Andrew Johnson (trumpet),
♦♦ John Mills (saxophones)
AMAZON STORE Editorial Reviews:
♦♦ Two bona fide guitar heroes in their respective fields — Eric Johnson in the rock realm and Mike Stern in the jazz world — go toe~to~toe on ‘Eclectic’, a scintillating musical showcase that brings together their disparate influences in one potent package.
♦♦ Guitar aficionados of all stripes will stand slack~jawed hearing these formidable six~stringers exchanging high octane licks on tracks such as Stern’s funky “Roll With It” and Johnson’s cruising pop anthem “Hullabaloo” (a kind of answer to his catchy GRAMMY—winning rock instrumental “Cliffs of Dover” from the platinum~selling 1990 album ‘Ah Via Musicom’).
♦♦ The two dip into a jazzy bag on Eric’s “Tidal” (a tribute to his own personal guitar hero, Wes Montgomery) and on Mike's surging modal romp “Remember”. And it is somehow fitting that these two sons of Jimi close out this six~string extravaganza with a scorching rendition of the famous Hendrix blues, “Red House,” with each of them trading vocal choruses.
♦♦ ‘Eclectic’ is anchored by the flexible rhythm tandem of drummer Anton Fig and Johnson’s regular bassist Chris Maresh, who also contributes the open~ended Bitches Brew flavoured “Bigfoot.” Special guests include Austin’s resident soul man Malford Milligan, Mike’s wife Leni Stern who provides vocals and plays n’goni and singer~songwriter Christopher Cross contributes backing vocals.
By James Wood | Posted 10/21/2014 at 11:59am
♦♦ What do you get when you combine two bona~fide guitar heroes in their respective genres — and then have them go toe~to~toe with each other? You get Eclectic, a new album by blues/jazz/rocker Eric Johnson and jazz master Mike Stern.
♦♦ Recorded at Johnson’s studio in Austin, Texas, Eclectic — which will be released October 27 — is a tasty collection of songs highlighting the strengths of both guitarists. ♦♦ It features an infectious rhythm section consisting of drummer Anton Fig (The Late Show with David Letterman) and Johnson’s regular bassist, Chris Maresh.
♦♦ Stern’s body of guitar goodness spans more than four decades. His career includes partnerships with such artists as Blood, Sweat & Tears, Billy Cobham, Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius.
♦♦ Johnson’s playing has often been compared to that of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck. ♦♦ His six~string wizardry earned him a Grammy award in 1992 for his instrumental hit, “Cliffs of Dover,” which came in at Number 17 on Guitar World’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time.
♦♦ Johnson and Stern will support Eclectic with an Eastern U.S. tour beginning in November. You can check out all the dates below.
♦♦ I recently spoke with both guitarists about their new album. Johnson also gives a bit of advice for properly playing “Cliffs of Dover.”
GUITAR WORLD: How did this collaboration begin?
STERN: I’ve known Eric for years and always dug his playing. Every time I saw him, I’d tell him that it would be great for us to do something together. Finally, I was doing this record called Big Neighborhood and had the idea of doing something with him.
JOHNSON: We had so much fun working on that record that one day the Blue Note Club in New York called and asked us if we’d like to do a joint gig together. So we put together a band, rehearsed and learned music. We ended up doing a two~week tour out of that and got offered to do a record and a few other tours that are now slated to happen.
How would you describe Eclectic?
JOHNSON: It’s a pretty honest record. We cut most of the record live and pretty much set everything up in one room.
STERN: The thing I like about Eric’s playing and the thing I always try to do is to play from the heart. That’s the most important thing about music, and there’s certainly a lot of heart and soul on this record.
♦♦ Let’s discuss a few tracks from Eclectic.
JOHNSON: Mike was saying we should have an up~tempo blues piece for the record, which I thought was a cool idea. While I was figuring out what to do, I started thinking about some of those old Benny Goodman records where there’s just a couple of chord changes, but it still has that blues vibe.
STERN: That’s a really cool track with a Texas~swing feel to it. I originally didn’t know how Eric wanted to do it, but once Anton started playing the back beat, I immediately got where he was coming from.
JOHNSON: It has a crazy rock/swinging Sixties vibe to it. It started off with a “show review” ~type of riff and then evolved from there.
JOHNSON: That song is an homage to Wes [Montgomery]. I actually wrote that song earlier and put it on iTunes. I brought it into our rehearsals and we started re~arranging it. I actually like it a lot better the way it is now. It’s a pretty cool thing.
♦♦ “Wherever You Go.”
STERN: I had a ballad kind of feeling when I wrote that song. The vibe is usually what starts it and gives it inspiration. Eric got it right away and what he plays on it is so beautiful.
Eric, I have to ask you about “Cliffs of Dover.” When you think about that song, what comes to mind?
JOHNSON: In a way, I think that song was kind of a gift. It’s one of those songs that just came to me really quickly. I don’t know why, but one day I just sat down and had the whole song finished in five minutes.
Do you have a bit of advice for someone attempting play it?
JOHNSON: There are a lot of different ways to approach it. Just to actually play it is not really that hard, but to play it in its best way is a bit of a challenge. It favors certain string positions to sound clean and they’re not the easiest, most readily accessible ways to go to.
STERN: I keep it simple. I’ve got a Signature Yamaha Tele. I usually run it through two amps set in stereo. I also use a Yamaha SPX~90 to fatten the sound up a little bit more and give it more air. My pedals include a BOSS DD3 and a Super Overdrive that Robert Keely modified to help warm it up.
JOHNSON: I play Strats mostly, through some manner of Fender amps for a stereo chorus sound. I also use a little 18~watt amp that Bill Webb built. For effects, I use a TC Electronic stereo chorus, fuzz phase and a Belle Epoch echo pedal by Catalinbread. I also use a TunnelWorm flanger by Mr. Black.
What are you most looking forward to about the release of Eclectic and this new collaboration?
STERN: There were some new things I did on this record like singing and writing words to my songs and some of the ideas were really spontaneous. Now we get to go play it live and are very excited about it. We’re both so lucky to be able to do what we do.
JOHNSON: I’m turning my attention to creating more spontaneous, live music and being able to paint a picture with my performance. If you want to go back and overdub to fix a note or two, that’s fine. Just be sure to keep it to a minimum and continue to paint that big picture. That’s where all the vibe is.
♦♦ James Wood is a writer, musician and self~proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.
REVIEWED BY MICHAEL TOLAND, FRI., OCT. 31, 2014; SCORE: **
♦♦ Two bona fide guitar heroes in their respective fields — Eric Johnson in the rock realm and Mike Stern in the jazz world — go toe~to~toe on Eclectic, a scintillating musical showcase that brings together their disparate influences in one potent package. Guitar aficionados of all stripes will stand slack~jawed hearing these formidable six~stringers exchanging high octane licks on Stern’s funky “Roll With It” and Johnson’s cruising pop anthem “Hullabaloo” (a kind of answer to his catchy GRAMMY®~winning rock instrumental “Cliffs of Dover” from the platinum~selling 1990 album Ah Via Musicom). The two dip into a jazzy bag on Eric’s “Tidal” (a tribute to his own personal guitar hero, Wes Montgomery) and on Mike’s surging modal romp “Remember” (patterned after John Coltrane’s “Impressions” with some allusions to Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun”). More fretboard flights ensue on Johnson’s jazzy “Benny Man’s Blues” (a kind of ode to Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian) and on Stern’s dark, slow-grooving “You Never Know.” And it is somehow fitting that these two sons of Jimi close out this six~string extravaganza with a scorching rendition of the famous Hendrix blues, “Red House,” with each of them trading vocal choruses. “It was my singing debut,” says Stern. “I sang the first verse and Eric sang the second verse, then he sings the first two lines of the third verse and I sing the last two lines of the third verse.” (Stern also sneaks in a quote from Jimi’s “Third Stone From the Sun” on a smoking rendition of “Dry Ice,” an Electromagnets tune which Eric revived for this session). Sterns sums up the project by saying, “This whole record, even though we did it in the studio, was really recorded live. A couple of things were fixed but there was that spontaneous quality which is what we were looking for and I definitely think that’s what we got. I really dig the way this record came out. It has a lot of energy and a lot of musicality.”
♦♦ Recorded at Johnson’s studio in his native Austin, Texas, Eclectic, scheduled for release on October 27, 2014 on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group, is anchored by the flexible rhythm tandem of drummer Anton Fig (a longstanding member in the Paul Shaffer–led house band of Late Night With David Letterman) and Johnson’s regular bassist Chris Maresh, who also contributes the open~ended Bitches Brew flavored “Bigfoot.” Special guests on this three~day session include Austin’s resident soul man Malford Milligan, who sings with gravelly~voiced gusto on the opening “Roll With It.” “He’s just awesome,” says Johnson. “Malford’s got so much vibe it doesn’t matter what he sings. He just puts magic on everything.” Mike’s wife Leni Sternalso provides vocals and plays n’goni (an African stringed instrument) on intros to “Bigfoot” and “Wherever You Go.” Christopher Cross (the GRAMMY® Award~winning songwriter of “Sailin’,” “Ride Like the Wind” and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” as well as a fellow Texan and longtime friend of Johnson’s) sings backup vocals on the bridge to Stern’s beautiful “Wishing Well” with Mike singing the verses. Guy Forsythlends some blues harp to “Red House.” And Johnson’s catchy “Hullabaloo” is punched up by the horn section of saxophonist John Mills, trombonist Mike Mordecai and trumpeter Andrew Johnson.
♦♦ Not only have the two guitarists admired each other’s playing for years (Eric heard Mike back in the ’80s with Miles Davis, and Mike first heard Eric when his hit “Cliffs of Dover” caught on big back in 1990), they came to have a greater appreciation of each other’s songwriting abilities during the course of the Eclectic sessions. “I’ve been aware of Mike for years and I was familiar with some of his playing,” says Eric, “but I wasn’t as deeply familiar with his songwriting. As we began working together, I started going through all his songs and I was just blown away by some of the ballads. His tunes ‘Wishing Well’ and ‘Sometimes’ are beautiful. And his tune ‘Wherever You Go’ is one of my favorites on the record. I think that’s another thing we have in common: we both get turned on by and really enjoy a good song. If there’s some kind of viable composition that’s put together in a way that emotes to people, we’re both real fans of that and that’s why it’s exhilarating to do it. We’re both interested and sensitive about songwriting and composition, and consequently since we’re also so passionate about playing guitar I think we try to figure out how to do it in a way that serves the composition. So I think what comes out of that is just a little bit of a tension and a little bit of care and concern about what the other person is playing. I’m constantly thinking, ‘How can I voice what I’m playing to fit what Mike is playing? How can we make it work in a musical way?’” And they strike a rare accord throughout Eclectic.
♦♦ The seeds for this extraordinary six–string summit meeting were planted in 2009 when Johnson played on two tracks from Stern’s GRAMMY®~nominated album Big Neighborhood. As Stern recalls, “At that session, which we also did down in Austin, I remember us saying, ‘One of these days we should do a record together,’ but I never thought that would happen. And then we played a gig together at the Blue Note in New York, and it kind of went from there.” Johnson and Stern’s week~long engagement at the Blue Note in August 2013 was preceded by two warm~up nights at the Regattabar in Boston, where they further explored their musical chemistry together. “It was really fun for me because we have different priorities in our playing,” says Stern. “I’m more of a jazz player, of course…that’s my priority and I love that stuff. But I also love rock and blues~rock and straight blues and Motown. That’s how I came up. I started off listening to Jimi Hendrix, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and the Jackson Five, and of course, lots of blues. Those were my roots. And then I got more into jazz when I was about 17. I fell in love with it. And ever since then my priority has been with my jazz playing. But I have that other stuff that comes out in my music. And it always has. For Eric, jazz has never has been his total priority, although Wes Montgomery is his favorite cat. So he has a lot of that sensibility in his playing. And as we started playing together we discovered that we really had so much in common. So it was definitely fun.”
♦♦ Stern was ecstatic about getting an insider’s look at Johnson’s unique six-string vocabulary. “The way this cat plays! I’m just beginning to figure out what the hell he’s doing. He does these pedal steel kind of licks on guitar and such beautiful orchestration. He picks some notes with his right hand using his fingers and pick together. He plays a lot with his fingers and pick, and some of the runs that he uses…the lines that he plays are very harmonically sophisticated. He can play piano, so there’s some pianistic stuff that happens with his comping. And he’s got Travis picking down. Plus, he’s a singer, so that influences his phrasing on guitar. Everything he plays is really cool and beautiful. It’s just very much Eric Johnson. He’s got his own style and it’s amazing! And more than that, he’s just a very soulful cat. He plays with a lot of heart and soul. And I love that!”
♦♦ Adds Johnson, “I was mentioning to Mike when we did this recording that it was one of my favorite double guitar situations that I’ve ever done, because a lot of times you do two guitar things and it’s hard for it to fit together in a very musical, cohesive way. It can get kind of busy, where you cover each other up. But through dynamics and listening to each other and thinking about the way we voice chords and support each other, I think this collaboration lent itself to being more in a musical kind of way, which has been a real nice experience for me.”
♦♦ With Johnson’s warm~toned distortion licks, smooth intervallic leaps up the fretboard and his occasional audacious wah~wah licks blending organically with Stern’s fiery be~bop and blues~based vocabulary, Eclectic is chockfull of thrilling fretboard fusillades, tempered with some uncannily lyrical six~string work by two of the most esteemed players of their generation. For music aficionados, this collaboration is a match made in heaven. // Also: https://beginnerguitarhq.com/best-guitar/
|Eric Johnson & Mike Stern|