Q (11/99, p.135) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...On [PLAY] Stern calls in [John] Scofield and also Bill Frisell for several tracks. Numbers with the former are fast and loose; but with the latter the contrast of styles is more musically fruitful."
The Wire (9/99, p.63) - "...Stern's touch for coming up with pretty tunes hasn't deserted him...and in the end I found myself enjoying this more than the latest releases by [John] Scofield and [Bill] Frisell..."
Personnel: Mike Stern (guitar); Bob Malach (tenor saxophone); Jim Beard (keyboards); John Scofield, Bill Frisell (guitar); Lincoln Goines (bass); Dennis Chambers, Ben Perowsky (drums).
Principally recorded at Litho Studios, Seattle, Washington in December 1998 and Avatar Studios, New York, New York in January 1999.
PLAY finds guitar ace Mike Stern alongside two other modern guitar masters, John Scofield and Bill Frisell. The results are stunning, to say the least. Though each of the three guitarists has a distinctive sound and style, an unmistakable camaraderie develops over the course of the album. Also along for the festivities is a cast of Stern's usual hired hands that includes Jim Beard, Bob Malach, Lincoln Goines, and drummers Ben Perowsky and Dennis Chambers. It is the powerful work of Stern, Scofield, and Frisell, however, that is the focus on this session.
Scofield steps up first as he and Stern take the first three tracks together. On the exciting title track, the two spar ferociously on the intricate theme and burning solos. The New Orleans groove of "Small World," familiar sonic territory for Scofield, is a particular highlight. Frisell makes his entrance with the atmospheric "Blue Tone," which fits his signature eclectic sound perfectly. Likewise, Stern sounds right at home on the ultra-funky "Tipatina's," a raucous tune that features muscular work by Malach. Frisell also makes a beautiful contribution to the expressive ballad "All Heart." Other highlights include the up-tempo romp "Links" and the final Frisell feature, "Big Kids."
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