June 8, 2002
FLAG WAVING: Guitarist/vocalist Leni Stern brings forth another genre-hopping exercise with the June 18 release of Finally the Rain Has Come on her own eponymous, Ryko distributed label.
The new album, Stern’s 12th, is the fourth on which the Munich-born performer, who got her start in the jazz business, has sung her own compositions.
Stern says of her move into the vocal realm, " I had sung when I was in Germany, but I didn’t know what to sing. I didn’t want to sing standards, and I didn’t want to perform other people’s songs. I was a composer, and I didn’t know how to write my own lyrics…I just very organically started writing lyrics."
The collection includes some striking songs, including "Empty Hands" and "Bury Me Standing," but the high point of the album is "Where Is God," a powerfully affecting song the New York-based musician wrote in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks there.
"I was pretty incapacitated," she recalls. "We couldn’t play. Every time the amplifier would make a little sound, we would jump two feet in the air. I was speechless for a long time…The whole mind-set was so troublesome. I started to write about it."
Backed by bassist Paul Socolow and drummer Keith Carlock, both members of her working band, Stern gets valuable assists from some well known friends on the album. Saxophonist Michael Brecker is featured on "Where is God," and guitarists Bill Frisell and John Mclaughlin make guest appearances. Stern says of Frisell, who was her guitar teacher and a member of her first band, "It was Bill who told me that I should record my first record. He made me feel like I would insult him if I didn’t record it." She met Mclaughlin early in her career ("He was very gracious-after every concert, he talks to all the little guitar players," she recalls) and reconnected with him when she was studying in India recently. Stern and her group begin a U.S. tour June 21 at the Living Room in New York.