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Joe Lovano and Mike Stern in Concert

Guitarist Mike Stern has played sideman to both Miles Davis and Michael Brecker, and last summer was the special invited guest for six consecutive nights with groups of his choice at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. On the other hand, drop in at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village and you might see him up close, playing for a dozen people. Outdoors at the 2006 J&R Music Festival in New York City, Stern plays music from his CD, Who Let the Cats Out?

After Stern comes Joe Lovano, one of today's great tenor saxophonists, but our focus is on his longtime bassist. The late Dennis Irwin was a dedicated musician, a salt-of-the-earth guy, a great quiet humorist, and also — this isn't widely known — excellent on the clarinet. Early on, he worked in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. Eventually, he calculated that (over countless club dates, concerts, albums, and tours) he traveled a million miles as a musician, in bands led by bluesman Mose Allison, guitarist John Scofield, Brazilian pianist Dom Salvador, and Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts. Weekly at Birdland in New York, Irwin played with David Berger & The Sultans of Swing with vocalist Aria Hendricks. Irwin died of cancer on March 10, 2008.

But on August 26, 2006, Irwin was doing what he did almost every day for 35 years. Cars honk, buses screech, and the wind threatens to blow it all away, but there's no tamping down Irwin with Lovano and the Mike Stern Quartet, outdoors in City Hall Park, on JazzSet.

Copyright 2008 WBGO