Dave Stryker – Strykin’ Ahead (2017)

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After a couple of well-received albums covering of 60s/70s radio hits and an inspired tribute to his old boss Stanley Turrentine, guitar whiz Dave Stryker gets back to meat ‘n’ potatoes soul-jazz with Strykin’ Ahead (September 1, 2017 Strikezone Records). The veteran of Turrentine and Jack McDuff does this kind of stuff better than just about anybody these days, so it’s a foregone conclusion that his 28th(!) release will be a quality date.

From the open unison lines on Stryker’s minor blues original “Shadowboxing,” you know that he’s once again put a slightly different spin on the ol’ organ jazz trio with the addition of vibes player: Steve Nelson is held over from last year’s Eight Track II. This versatile and agile vibes guy forms a great blend with Stryker and Jared Gold on B3. As Stryker peels away for the savory solo, Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter bond for a swing so strong, I dare you to try not to snap your fingers or tap your shoe.

“New You” is a reconstruction of sorts of “There Will Be Another You” done up in the cerebral Larry Young style that suits Gold quite well. Nelson waits in the shadows while Stryker reels off rich bop phrases to step up and lay down a stirring solo himself. Hunter’s groove picks up steam during this time until he reaches cruising altitude by the time Gold takes his turn to sizzle.

Deep down, Stryker is really a blues guitarist so “Blues Down Deep” is a dive into his roots, combining a soft tone with gritty, urban lines. He puts on his Wes Montgomery game face for “Who Can I Turn To,” getting excellent support from the other three. “Strykin’ Ahead” sounds like a little like “Take The Coltrane” and another occasion for Stryker to show off his advanced bebop chops as McClenty gets in on the solo action this time, too.

Following a familiar formula, Stryker mixes originals inspired by his mentors and heroes with standards that he brings to the present day while keeping the original ethos intact. “Footprints” is often covered but never reharmonized the way Stryker and his boys do it. It sashays in a cooled, smoky vibe; Gold’s organ accompaniment is restrained and attenuated just so to set this fervor. Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring” is easily recognizable but a few chord substitutions keep it sounding fresh and modern. Hunter gets out his brushes and sets a modish bossa groove for the Billy Strayhorn number “Passion Flower.” And “Donna Lee” has two pairs of tricky coordination going for it: the Nelson/Stryker unite for the theme and Gold’s bass pedal perfectly syncs up with Hunter’s snare and cymbals.

Strykin’ Ahead, like all Dave Stryker affairs, puts both harmony and performance to the forefront. With a stellar backing band on hand, this is as good as that greasy, groovin’ soul jazz can get.


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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