By Raul da Gama
Logic ought to tell us that if all life and all civilisations came from Mother Africa, then so also does the impulse to “sing” and “dance” the rhythm that we hear in all music that pays her homage. When it comes to the music of this disc, 3, by Leni Stern, we don’t need logic or any other intellectually-driven impulse. We are driven to “sing” and “dance” to every breathtaking possibility simply because of what is innate in this musical homage; indeed in every sonic image that is presented here by Miss Stern, Mamadou Ba and Alioune Faye. The vitality that comes from it – this music – is awakening, like being impacted by a series of solar flares from the nuclear corona of the sun. And this musical light is so special, so enormous and so dense that it might even enable to walk through a block of concrete should such an impediment arise en route to our celebrating this music.
Just by listening to the music of 3 one experiences Miss Stern, who is completely transformed by the touch of Africa. From “Khavare” to “Calabas” and “Crocodile” the guitarist becomes an artist who even in the ordinary act of fingers on strings is able to impregnate each twang with an extraordinary note. Strung together with others in a chord, a phrase or a line, Miss Stern’s music grows in intensity to become that unstoppable force that she has become. The simple phrase in “Wakama”, for instance, continents collide and a melody expands in beauty, becoming a gushing ecstasy.
Similarly, when her fingers bite into the strings again in “Calabas” shadows and shining surfaces reveal themselves. The song contains darkness but in its revelation of anti-light the flicker of synapse between us and the African sun comes into being. And we are awake and alive again in a way that is somehow different to the way we have been a moment ago. It is as if her, as everywhere else Miss Stern – through her music and in her sublime artistry – has poured energy into the air around us. We, for our part, become changed forever because of her and the message she brings from Mother Africa.
Track list – 1: Khavare; 2: Barambai; 3: Wakhma; 4: Calabas; 5: Spell; 6: Colombiano; 7: Assiko; 8: Crocodile
Personnel – Leni Stern: electric guitar, n’goni and voice; Mamadou Ba: bass; Alioune Faye: sabar, djembe, calabas and voice; with Mike Stern: electric guitar (4, 5); Leo Genovese: Sequential Circuits Six-Trak synthesizer (4, 6); Gil Goldstein: accordion (2, 8); Muhammed and Princess Louise Faye: backing vocals (2, 8)
Released – 2018
Label – Leni Stern Recordings
Runtime – 32:38
See Leni in the new Guitar Player Magazine's cover story: 50 SENSATIONAL FEMALE GUITARTISTS
"My guest today is guitarist, vocalist and composer Leni Stern. Leni is someone I consider to be a good friend, as we’ve known each other for 16 years. She’s one of the most inspiring musicians I happen to know and- her contagious laugh and positive energy is something I never get tired of being around. Although she is married to guitarist Mike Stern (check out my 4th podcast)- Leni has her own distinctive voice on the guitar and an unmistakable touch and tone. She has won the Gibson Guitar Best Female jazz guitarist award 5 years straight and has continued to push forward with each of her records and bands.
In the interview you’ll hear how she left a successful career in her native city of Munich, Germany to come to the US and slowly build her reputation as one of New York City's finest. Now, some 20 plus records later, she talks about her new record, (Darkar Suite) what it was like studying and being in a band with Bill Frisell, the difficulties and advantages of being a female guitarist in a male dominated world, what it’s like being married to one of the most famous jazz guitarists in the world- Mike Stern, how she composes melodies etc…. and we play some ngoni and guitar duos too… Click here for Leni's Website"
Leni's song "Gnate Yone (How Many Times)" from Jelell has won 1st place in the world music category for the 2015 USA Songwriting Competition. Stay tuned for more info...
I just returned from an incredible week in Kathmandu, Nepal playing at the 2015 Jazzmandu Festival. I met many wonderful musicians and bands from around the world! The resolve and spirit of the Nepalese people following such a great tragedy was inspiring to say the least.
Leni and Moto (from House of Water) are playing weekly new compositions with special guests. NOV 14, 21, 28
I had a VERY inspired clinic/concert at LACM -- thank you Adam Levy (dean of guitar!)
I spent last week at the Wooten Woods camp in Tennessee, an hour outside of Nashville. It is the creation of #VictorWooten, the amazing #bassist.
Mike and I had a fantastic time!! We were way off the beaten path in the woods, by a large stream, teaching 28 young musicians from all over the world.
We had wing shun kung fu classes by a student of It man !!!! and nature classes where the students learned to identify tracks and bugs ( like the one that crawled up my pants when i was teaching!!!!!!!!!!!!) and snakes ( water mocassins and rattlesnakes - ayayayayayay)
There was a huge organic vegetable garden out back and meals were cooked by an awesome chef with fresh produce from there.
The best thing was, that by the time we got to the camp, all the students had been infected with the irresistable Wooten groove…and young boys from Pakistan to Sweden were grooving like hell!!
I’m finally in St Louis, Senegal, the site of the jazz festival where we are playing. A prehistoric bus met us in Dakar to take all of our equipment to St Louis. Actually, it was supposed to take us as well, but I hired cars....it was too adventurous even for my taste!
The rehearsals have been amazing! My jaw keeps dropping whenever the Faye brothers play. In all my time in africa I have never heard anything like it. Alioune has composed a series of drum calls to go with the new songs. The Faye brothers are so soft-spoken and sweet... until they get behind the drums, then all hell breaks loose.
The audience yesterday loved our rendition of traditional Senegalese songs, and they all sang along. We played on a boat that was anchored in front of the large venue. The river Senegal has some waves, and I was scared to slip into the water with my amp and pedals. Today, thank god, they moved the stage to land and set VIP sofas up on the boat.
The whole band only speaks Wollof now and I hobble along. It’s actually helpful with the Wollof lyrics I am singing. My accent gets better and better, and everybody is terribly amused by it!
So excited to be heading to Nicaragua for 5 days on March 17th. Happy to be a sidewoman and happy to make new musical partnerships. I'll be playing with the fabulous singer Mariella.
"And my wife, Leni, happened to be in the studio and we asked her to improvise on the spot a couple of preludes to songs, with her doing vocals and playing the ngoni. I don’t know how she does it with the n'goni—I’m still into trying to figure out how to play the same old blues licks on guitar. We were thinking of doing short vignettes in between some of the songs, but what Leni did was perfect."
- Mike Stern - in the FEB/2015 DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE article SIX STRING SUMMIT, about recording his new record, Eclectic with Eric Johnson.
Friday, January 9th 11pm
Why Not Jazz Room
14 Christopher Street
Saturday, January 10th 10pm
300 W 116th Street
Sunday, January 11th 9pm
62 Ave C
Monday, January 12th 6pm
Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street
Monday, January 13th 10pm
The 55 Bar
55 Christopher Street
December 1st - 9pm
I'll be playing GUITAR with NALANI & SARINA at the Bitter End.
This Wednesday, Novemeber 19th.
I’m also playing CALABASH(!) with Kofo (the Wonderman)
this Friday 11/21…at ZInc Bar - 10pm. I’ll be happy this once to leave my guitar at home ;)