Mike Stern-Bill Evans Band
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh
UNITS for measuring job satisfaction should henceforth be known as Sterns, because few people demonstrate how much they enjoy being at work as does Mike Stern.
Even losing his band's star drummer, Dennis Chambers, who had to leave the current tour after becoming ill, did not dampen the guitarist's enthusiasm.
In fact, Chambers's replacement, Derico Watson, turned out to be another star drummer and the smile with which Stern habitually greeted his audience just kept getting bigger as Watson infused the music with precisely articulated power.
This is the first time that Stern and saxophonist Bill Evans have worked as a partnership since they starred with Miles Davis in the 1980s and there were definite elements of carrying the We Want Miles Davis-era band forward.
There were also hallmarks of the music Stern made with the late saxophonist Bob Berg in the tough, virtuosic electric bebop of opening number, Stern's Out of the Blue, and elsewhere.
Mostly, though, this was about four exceptional musicians delivering music that swung mightily, rocked hard, reflected bluesily and grooved with a passion, and all very much in the moment. Evans's Cool Eddie caught the direct, big-hearted message of its dedicatee, Eddie Harris, to a T and the airy, Brazilian quality of Stern's Wishing Well, with the guitarist adding wordless vocals, emphasised the quartet's dynamic variety as well as letting Stern, Evans and bass guitarist Tom Kennedy have fun on its seagulling coda.
It's rare for musicians to make the audience feel quite so closely involved but as much as these guys can play with serious chops, they also communicate and that's what made this so exciting.