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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Friday, July 25, 2014

Worldly wise: Leni Stern’s African Trio

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Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 5:00 am | Updated: 11:51 pm, Thu Oct 31, 2013.

Born and raised in Germany and a resident of New York City since 1981, guitarist-vocalist Leni Stern has found another home in Africa. Long fascinated by the varieties of music heard across the globe — she’s spent time in India studying that country’s music — Stern embraced the music of Mali and Senegal as part of a progression that has seen her adopting a host of musical traditions. Her appearance with bassist Mamadou Ba and percussionist Alioune Faye at Gig Performance Space on Monday, Oct. 28, ahead of the release of a new recording, Jelell, will represent the purest expression of the influence that African music has had on her.

That expression began with 2004’s When Evening Falls after a visit to Kenya and went full-blown in 2007 with the release of Africa. The disc was recorded at Afro-pop singer-songwriter Salif Keita’s recording studio in Bamako, Mali, with a mostly American group of musicians including her husband, guitarist Mike Stern; saxophonist Michael Brecker (who died before the album was released); and drummer Will Calhoun. Contrast that African-flavored collection with 2012’s Smoke, No Fire, which includes a full complement of African percussionists and string players along with Mike Stern and the bassist Esperanza Spalding. In addition to guitar, Leni Stern plays n’goni — a lute-like string instrument with a characteristic sound — on the recording.

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