An intimate acoustic set imbued with Brazilian flavors, funk-fusion syncopations, blues touches, and sweet jazz harmonies, Krantz and Stern's first recorded collaboration suggests the landmark duets between Bert Janscha nd John Renborn filtered through a Manhattan jazzbo sensibility. Full, round tones and touches of tremolo support the album's elgiac themes and intuitive improvisational passages, which benefit from both players' astounding sense of phrasing, note choice and dramatic tension. This pure guitar showcase (no bass, drums, or keyboards), recorded at what sounds like living room proximity, is rich, meaningful and soul-stirring, with the integrity to stand the test of time.
-James Rotondi, Guitar Player

When you place two very different guitar stylists in duet settings, they can either sink to a bland common denominator, or soar in tandem, building upon each other's stregnths. In the case of Separate Cages, the latter is true, as Krantz spins funky acoustic underpinning and Stern embellishes via her clear-toned strat. Of course, that's an over-simplification: most of the time the roles cross, and the intriguing interplay takes the music to an even higher level. A variety of tones, and even a switch to baritone (by Krantz) on one cut, keep the momentum strong and the concepts fresh throughout the 11 pieces.

Even the two volcal compositions feature clear, focused and engaging arrangements that showcase the guitarists' formidable talents. Neither Stern nor Krantz goes over the top with blistering show-off solos. Instead they keep the material focused, their melodies direct. Separate Cages is a very striking album that's at once adverturoous and soothing, one that shows how control and melodicism can make two guitars seem much, much larger than life.
-Tom Mulhern, Guitar Shop Magazine.

This month's absolute must have is Separate Cages (Alchemy ALCD 1007; 58:23), a collection of tightly constructed, intimate guitar duets by Wayne Krantz and Leni Stern. The duo spins detailed and nuanced "conversations" -- from the melancholy, overtone-driven tone painting of Stern's "Leave Softly," to the dark, bluesy rock tones of Krantz's "Claudine," with Stern on dobro. Krantz's "Nicole" features a beautifully executed point-counterpoint between his dizzyingly fast-paced, dark background and Stern's long-lined, pining solo. The best of these pieces generate palpable emotion -- where "November"'s soft-touch, musing solo and light-toned accompaniment is sad, powerful and full of regret, the duo's interpretation of Larry John McNally's "Something is Wrong in Spanish Harlem" is hopeful and gentle, with a smoky vocal by Stern ("if music has the power to change things/even in the smallest of ways/I send these notes to the night/like a prayer to the light"). McNally's heartening lyric is at the emotional center of this fine, thought-provoking effort.
Jazz Times Magazine

Rather different is the eponymous release by Separate Cages (58:23, ALCD 1007), a guitar duo comprising Wayne Krantz and Leni Stern. It is truly refreshing to hear a woman play guitar with real chops and musicianship. Musically, this album could would fit nicely on ECM and perhaps Windham Hill, though the jazz style is somewhat more straight ahead than typically found on ECM and the music more complex, challenging and satisfying than one might generally expect from Windham Hill.

Focusing on acoustic guitars, with the occasional low-key electric, the music is primarily instrumental with a couple of songs thrown in, though as singers, neither Stern nor Krantz distinguish themselves. The playing tends to be understated, but quite tasty. Not at all progressive, this is quite pleasant, though unremarkable.
-Dean Suzuki, Progression Magazine