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Our musical adventurer takes in Mike Stern & Romero Lubambo at Bourbon Street Music Club, São Paulo, Brazil. (Hold on a minute, have we paid for his flight?)

Mike Stern

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Right under the flight path of a troubled Conghonas Airport, and lurking behind the Valley Of The Kings-scaled Shopping Ibirapuera, lies the Bourbon Street Music Club, which ultimately favours jazz, and is São Paulo's equivalent to Ronnie Scott's.

It's an ideal joint for soaking up the music, with a policy of inviting along regular big name guests, who by definition are often dropping down from North America.

One such player is US guitarist Mike Stern, who first solidified his reputation back in the early 1980s, as a sideman to Miles Davis. The Dark Prince had just emerged from a five-year retirement, enforced by ill health, and Stern was there to appear on Star People, one of the best late-period Miles discs.

At this point, Mike moved to New York, from his original roost in Boston, gigging with Miles for the next three years or so.

After that, the axeman did time with Jaco Pastorius, David Sanborn, Steps Ahead and the Brecker Brothers, as well as making his solo album debut in 1985.

Also heading for NYC, two decades back, was fellow guitarist Romero Lubambo, who was born in Rio de Janeiro. He too has worked with a stellar flow of name jazzers, as well as forming Trio Da Paz.

Now, Lubambo is co-fronting a quartet with Stern, along with bassman Lincoln Goines (who's been playing with Mike for around twenty years) and
drummer Lionel Cordew.

Right from the onset, Stern's ready to rock, almost bursting out of the dressing room, and visibly relishing the twin-axe combination with Lubambo. With his long locks straggling over his eyes, Mike's always come on like he's out of the metal generation: he's a jazz guitarist, but always enjoys cranking up the amplifier, soaking his strings in howling sheets of distortion.

He's never set on reaching the sonic extremes of Lou Reed or Neil Young, but
for a jazz axeman, Stern's pretty rockin' indeed. Whilst he's favouring a bleeding dapple kind of sound, Lubambo has a more clearly delineated string-attack, more bluesily stippled. He even picks up an acoustic for a few numbers...

The foursome are clearly loving the charged atmosphere, lapping up their own company, and they're soon into this endless climaxing routine from heavy metal land, topping (or toppling) almost every tune with a hammering succession of riff explosions. They're only half-joking.

Stern and Lubambo can be excessive, but they're also masters of the sensitive spangle, again making much out of their contrasting sounds: prickly and splashy.

An encore is rabidly requested, and then Stern's out in the milling crowd, pen held aloft as he signs albums and poses for photographs with his fans. He looks genuinely taken aback by the response...

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