Mike Stern (born January 10, 1953) is a six-time Grammy nominee American jazz guitarist. After playing for a few years with Blood, Sweat & Tears, he landed a gig with drummer Billy Cobham and then broke through with trumpeter Miles Davis' comeback band from 1981 to 1983, and again in 1985. Following that he launched a solo career, releasing more than a dozen albums. He was hailed as the Best Jazz Guitarist of 1993 by Guitar Player magazine. At the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in June 2007, Stern was honored with the Miles Davis Award, which was created to recognize internationally acclaimed jazz artists whose body of work has contributed significantly to the renewal of the genre. In 2009 Stern was listed on Down Beat 's list of 75 best jazz guitar players of all time. Stern was presented with Guitar Player magazine's Certified Legend Award on January 21, 2012. This was given to him at the Muriel Anderson's All-Star Guitar night where he performed with Lee Ritenour.
Stern was born Michael Sedgwick in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Helen (Burroughs) and Henry Dwight Sedgwick V. "Stern" is the surname of his stepfather. He is the half-brother of actress Kyra Sedgwick; his full sister, Holly, is the mother of actor Philip Nozuka and singers George Nozuka, Justin Nozuka, and Henry Nozuka. Stern is married to guitarist and vocalist Leni Stern.
At the Berklee College of Music in Boston his focus shifted to jazz. Stern landed a gig with Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1976 and remained with the band for two years, appearing on the BS&T albums More Than Ever and Brand New Day.
In 1979, Stern joined Billy Cobham's fusion band. Two years later he joined Miles Davis group, making his public debut on June 27, 1981, at the KIX nightclub in Boston, a performance documented on the CBS live album We Want Miles. He remained with Davis through 1983. From 1983 to 1984 he toured in Jaco Pastorius' Word of Mouth band and in 1985 he returned to Davis for a second tour of duty that lasted close to a year.
His solo debut, Upside Downside, was released on Atlantic Records in 1986. It features performances by Pastorius, David Sanborn, and Bob Berg. From 1986 through 1988, he was a member of Michael Brecker's quintet, appearing on Don't Try This at Home.
Stern's second Atlantic album, 1988's Time in Place, featured Peter Erskine on drums, Jim Beard on keyboards, Jeff Andrews on bass, Don Alias on percussion and Don Grolnick on organ. He followed with 1989's Jigsaw, which was produced by fellow guitarist Steve Khan and included Mike's menacing Miles Davis tribute, "Chief". In 1989, Stern formed a cooperative touring group with Bob Berg that also included drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Lincoln Goines. They remained a working unit through 1992 and are featured on Mike's Atlantic release, Odds Or Evens.
Stern joined a reunited Brecker Brothers Band in 1992 and became a factor in the success of that popular group for the next two years. His acclaimed and jazzy 1993 Atlantic release, Standards (And Other Songs), led to Stern being named Best Jazz Guitarist of the Year by the readers and critics of Guitar Player. He followed that up with 1994's Is What It Is and 1996's Between The Lines, both of which received Grammy nominations.
In 1997, Stern returned to a jazzier aesthetic with Give And Take, a looser, more spontaneous session featuring bassist John Patitucci, drummer Jack DeJohnette, percussionist Don Alias and special guests Michael Brecker and David Sanborn. He won the Orville W. Gibson Award for Best Jazz Guitarist.
After 15 years with Atlantic, Stern shifted to ESC for the 2004 release of These Times, an eclectic set that included guest appearances by some high-profile session players –- bassist Richard Bona, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, and banjoist Bela Fleck.
Stern joined the Heads Up label with the August 2006 release of Who Let the Cats Out? In 2008, Stern collaborated with the Yellowjackets for their Lifecycle release, contributing two compositions and performing on most of the tracks; he toured with the Yellowjackets for much of 2008 and 2009.
In February 2009, in the first in a series of articles to celebrate DownBeat 's 75th anniversary, Stern was named to the jazz magazine's list of 75 Great Guitarists.
In August 2009, Stern released Big Neighborhood, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.
Stern was presented with Guitar Player magazine's Certified Legend Award on January 21, 2012. This was given to him at the Muriel Anderson's All-Star Guitar night where he performed with Lee Ritenour. Past GP Legends include Les Paul, Duane Eddy, Dick Dale, Larry Carlton, and Tommy Emmanuel. In June of that year, Stern released All Over the Place, which featured an all-star cast of trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonists Kenny Garrett, Chris Potter, Bob Franceschini and Bob Malach, drummers Dave Weckl, Keith Carlock, Lionel Cordew, Al Foster, Kim Thompson, keyboardist/producer Jim Beard and Mike's wife, guitarist-vocalist Leni Stern. A delegation of high-caliber electric and acoustic bass players, including Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson, Dave Holland, Tom Kennedy, Will Lee and Victor Bailey.
In November 2014, Mike kicked off a tour with fellow guitarist Eric Johnson named the "Eclectic Guitar Tour." They have also recorded an album of the same name.
Instruments, amplifiers, effects
An early and important guitar for Stern was a hybrid 1950s/1960s Fender Telecaster, previously owned by Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton, which was stolen from him in an armed robbery in Boston. This guitar is the basis for a custom-made guitar built by Boston-based luthier Michael Aronson, which has a Telecaster style body with an original 1950's Broadcaster neck. There is a Seymour Duncan humbucker in the neck position and a Bill Lawrence single coil in the bridge.
The Aronson guitar is in turn the basis for the Yamaha PA1511MS, the Mike Stern signature model. The neck position pickup is a Seymour Duncan '59 and it has a Tele Hot Rail in the bridge.
Stern uses a pair of Fender '65 Twin Reverb amps or his famous Yamaha G100-212.
Stern's highly recognizable chorused sound is created in part by a Yamaha SPX-90, split for stereo. His pedal board mostly consists of Boss pedals. He uses two Boss DD-3 digital delays, one of which is set to a long delay time for "big, spacey sounds." His distortion pedal is a Boss DS-1.