Top Albums of 2014 #4 Johnson&Stern: Eclectic

I first heard Eric Johnson’s guitar playing when his debut album Tones came out in the mid 1980s. I had never heard anything like it. Nobody had heard anything like it! Since then whenever the Austin native put out something new, I felt I owed it to myself to hear it. He’s made many rewarding albums that (reflecting his attention to detail in the studio) generally appear about every four years – like the olympics. This year Johnson, whose records are generally filed under rock, teamed up with Mike Stern, a guitarist originally out of Boston whose discs are found in the jazz section. While Eric was making Tones, Mike was on his second tour of duty with Miles Davis. (His brief digression about Miles in this interview is priceless.) Even if Miles wasn’t on it, the list of guys he has played with would still be stunning: Jaco Pastorius, the Brecker brothers, Bela Fleck, Jack DeJohnette, and Kenny Garrett to name just a few. Stern’s discography captures him sparkling in a variety of contexts; mostly as a bandleader but also as a band member, with that litany of fantastic players.

Both Johnson and Stern have a wheelbarrow full of awards and have received countless accolades from not only the music press but, tellingly, from fellow musicians.

The album Eric Johnson and Mike Stern made together called Eclectic has, as Eric put it when we spoke last month before their gig at Webster Hall, a 1+1=3 thing going. With the 1’s being Johnson and Stern, you can imagine how amazing that 3 is. Don’t imagine it though, watch the video! It features conversation and performance not included in the 2 minute Sound Advice report last month and it covers how they got together as well as their approach to sharing sonic spaces. Their North American tour continues through the middle of February 2015.

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