Jan Gunnar Hoff Group – Featuring Mike Stern (2018)

Jan Gunnar Hoff Group - Featuring Mike Stern (2018)
Artist: Jan Gunnar Hoff Group
Album: Featuring Mike Stern
Genre: Jazz Rock / Fusion
Origin: Norway / USA
Released: 2018
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
Some Day 06:33
City Z 04:23
Her Song 06:06
Seven Thirty 05:26
Mike 6/4 06:35
Common Ground 07:38
All You Need 07:38
Point Blank 04:20

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This is a collection of artists that could deserve to be called a supergroup. My guess is that they’d be embarrassed and irritated even by the suggestion of this, but here are four musicians who have contributed so much to the jazz scene that it is great to see them working so effortlessly together. Mathisen and Kleive form a formidable rhythm section that takes the concept of ‘fusion’ and runs with it into new territory. Over their continually shifting backing, Hoff lays down and develops a whole bunch of uplifting keyboard riffs and chords. And against this background, Stern (recovered, the liner notes remind us, from a serious accident in 2016 which affected his right arm) absolutely shreds his guitar solos. Of course, knowing that Stern played with Blood, Sweat and Tears, with Billy Cobham and with Miles in the ‘80s (if you’re not au fait with his playing check out the Miles tune ‘Fat Time’…about 5 minutes in… to learn what it means to play guitar), or that he’s been Grammy nominated six times, gives you a pretty good idea that you’re in the presence of one of jazz’s great guitarists.

What is so marvellous about this set is the way that this expectation is entirely fulfilled – Stern plays a variety of styles, showing complete mastery of each. What is even more exciting is that his playing sounds absolutely in keeping with the rest of the band. Here is a group of like-minded players having a whale of a time and giving us the opportunity to experience first-rate fusion as it should be played. While I referenced a Miles track from last century, this set shows us that fusion has developed and what is recorded here is contemporary music of the highest order. Of course, this is not the first time that they’ve collaborated. Stern and Hoff began working together about 12 years ago (the excellent ‘Magma’ CD was the product of their earlier tour), and, in 2016, the Mike Stern and Gunnar Hoff Quartet featured the line-up on this set. For me, the standout track of the set is track 6, ‘Common Ground’, which is a Stern ballad that seems to capture not only the elegance of his playing but also the unity of the quartet.
Reviewed by Chris Baber