Leni Stern is a traveler. Borders are not important, as she fits in effortlessly from place to place. The many languages of rhythm are her passports, her love of people fixes her destinations, and time marks her well-earned path. For over 25 years Stern has found motivation in the ever-changing world around her for the music that she plays, a sound that is equally transforming, malleable, fluid, and moving. Traveling. She came from Europe, put roots down in America, followed the winds to Africa, and her sights are always on the horizon.
It is unique to find a musician so proficient at their art form but who still admits to finding inspiration in the music and culture of the current events around them. Stern’s success as a jazz guitarist (awarded Gibson Guitar’s Female Jazz Guitarist of the Year Award five consecutive years) was no reason to rest on her laurels. Early on she led bands supported by heavyweights, the only ones who could support her big sound and strong melodies (Dennis Chambers, Bill Frisell, Michael Brecker, Paul Motian). As a former actress in Germany, Stern was no stranger to using her voice to connect with her audience. After 6 highly acclaimed instrumental albums Stern bravely chartered the vocal waters on her 1995 album “Words” with the first of many songs to come accompanied by her monster guitar chops.
The voice connects us to each other through words and imagery. With the ability to fluidly speak five languages, Stern found doors open to study the music of different countries and cultures, dipping her toes into an ocean of possibilities. India, Madagascar, Peru, Kenya, Mali and Senegal opened their doors to her as she opened her heart to them. Studying and working alongside some of the greatest musicians around the world (Zakir Hussain, Baaba Maal, Salif Keita, Ami, Sacko, Toumani Diabate) Stern developed her abilities into a vocabulary vast and unnamable. Was it jazz? Was it world? Was it folk? Was it rock? Did it matter?