Dave Stryker – Eight Track II (2016)

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Inspired by the welcome reception of Eight Track — or perhaps merely further inspired by AM radio of yore — Dave Stryker serves a second helping of soul-jazz versions of Baby Boomer classics with Eight Track II.

As one of the top jazz guitarists in today’s scene especially one that plays alongside an organ, Stryker follows a pattern set by many of the B3 giants of the 60s and 70s who covered popular, contemporary hits and made them sizzle. Who can, for instance, forget Charles Earland’s rendition of “More Today The Yesterday” that became his signature tune? Stryker’s old boss Jack McDuff did a lot of that as well, covering the Burt Bacharach/Hal David gem “Walk On By,” not long after it was a hit for Dionne Warwick.

Stryker, however, turned this thing of creating greasy goodness out of pop tunes into a whole album concept. With obviously a long-held personal connection to these tunes, he tapped into a vein of jazz lovers who like him grew up on Top 40. So why not do it again?

Stryker does indeed do it again, not messin’ the formula that provided successful, great groovin’ covers the first time. That meant sticking with the same ace organist (Jared Gold) and versatile drummer (McClenty Hunter) as before, only swapping out the great vibraphonist Stefon Harris for the equally talented veteran of Dave Holland’s ensembles, Steve Nelson.

You’re quite likely to have heard these tunes many, many times before but none like the way Stryker and his crew does ’em. Starting with the least recognizable song of the batch “Harvest For The World,” a minor hit for the Isley Brothers in 1976 but nonetheless one of their best singles. Stryker recognizes the quality melody and puts it out front, slipping a shuffle underneath it and slowing it down only to shine a light on Nelson.

Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is completely re-harmonized, and Stryker’s pure-toned single lines sometimes doubled with Nelson’s on the lyric lines so the poignant words sung by Gaye might not be heard, but are never far from memory. Immediately following “What’s Going On” is another Gaye hit, “Trouble Man,” which, in this band’s hands, reveals an uncanny similarity between this song and Miles Davis’ “So What.” But Stryker is in more of a soul state of mind than a jazz one and Nelson responds with a rousing solo turn of his own.

The recently deceased Prince gets a nod with “When Doves Cry” which cast in an energetic swing is barely recognizable but the band is cooking, so that matters none at all. Stryker’s blues-rock beginnings is revisited with Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” heavily informed by his time with McDuff and Stanley Turrentine, who could take any blues number and make it a joyful shuffle or swing, an art Stryker himself has mastered at the elite level.

Other songs given the soul-jazz treatment include a couple by Stevie Wonder (“Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” “Send One Your Love”), The Zombies’ “Time of the Season” and a sensitive reading of James Ingram’s “One Hundred Ways.”

Eight Track II, due out September 2, 2016 from Stryker’s Strikezone Records imprint, is one of those good ideas from Dave Stryker that deserved another go around.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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