In 1985, bassist Harvie S and guitarist Mike Stern played for three nights at a club in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They were joined by the greatest drummer in the region, Alan Dawson, and those fortunate enough to attend have spoken about the performances with reverence and awe. Unbeknownst to the players, the club owner, David Lee, always taped the gigs at the 1369 Jazz Club, and Going for It presents seven tunes from that engagement. The result is a powerhouse recording that exudes passion and surprise.
The greatest revelation, perhaps, is Stern’s performance. While he has often been negatively stereotyped as a loud, fusion-focused musician, here he provides exhilarating, in-the-pocket lines made all the more exciting by Dawson’s drive and responsive punctuation. On the up-tempo “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” for example, Stern unleashes a relentless torrent of choruses, separated by a bass solo in which the leader wisely drops out of tempo to provide a necessary respite. This is followed by Horace Silver’s classic ballad, “Peace,” and two other standards: a jaunty take on “Like Someone in Love,” with Harvie S taking center stage, and a spritely rendition of “Moment’s Notice,” with Stern once again saturating the air with breathless phrasing and Dawson energizing the crowd with a vivacious, lyrical drum solo. The album concludes with lengthy renditions of Chick Corea’s “Windows,” a showcase for Stern, and the guitarist’s own composition, “Bruze,” with memorable features for all three musicians.
Throughout, Harvie S grounds the trio with rich, thoughtful support, and Dawson demonstrates why he should be considered one of the greatest drummers of his generation; although he had never previously performed with Stern, he unerringly propels the guitarist’s flights, as though the trio had been together for decades.— Sascha Feinstein