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Keeping fusion alive

Ten Songs
Ten Songs
By Leni Stern

Lipstick Records: 1992

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This review first appeared in the February 1, 1993 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

It would be unfair, perhaps cruel, to compare Leni Stern to husband and fellow jazz guitarist Mike Stern. Marriage is a tough enough proposition without having critics drive a wedge between wife and husband.

Anyway, "Ten Songs" is a strong collection of imaginative playing and good songwriting. Both her compositions and her playing are explorative, sometimes avant garde, and always progressive. She picks up where the fusion movement left off in the '70s as it petered off into smooth jazz.

Stern's compositions have the grace and energy of the best fusion, combined with the gravity and seriousness of progressive jazz. Her guitar playing is spry, with quick arpeggio-like passages coupled to more introspective meanderings.

As all of the above illustrates, categorizing her brand of jazz is difficult. Listening to it, however, is most assuredly not.