NEW RELEASE. Dave Stryker. Eight Track II
Autor: Richard Constantinidi
Etichete: Dave Stryker, Eight Track Ii
Guitarist Dave Stryker hit on a ‘groovy’ idea with 2014’s Eight Track, his reimagining of classic pop tunes from the ‘70s with his working trio plus vibes. Their hip renditions of those tunes were eagerly received by audiences and critics alike. Eight Track was the #1 most-played CD on WBGO for the year and reached #3 on JazzWeek Radio chart. “Styker’s Eight Track is straight up fun,” wrote Dan Bilawsky in All About Jazz while Steve Greenlee declared in Jazz Times: “Forget those Time-Life collectors’ editions sold on late-night infomercials. Buy this.” Downbeat’s Ken Micallef called it ”a stone groove.”
Stryker put his own personal spin on Eight Track and now continues that successful formula on Eight Track II, his 27th recording as a leader. (His previous CD “Messin’ with Mister T” was #1 on JazzWeek and made many end-of-the-year lists including 4.5 Stars in Downbeat). Returning from Eight Track are Stryker’s longtime right-hand man Jared Gold on B-3 and the exciting McClenty Hunter on drums. Special guest this time out is vibraphonist Steve Nelson, a longtime member of Dave Holland’s quintet and big band who has also played and recorded with such giants as Jackie McLean, Kenny Barron, Johnny Griffin,George Shearing, and Mulgrew Miller. “Steve is a great cat and a very soulful player,” says Stryker. “I really like what he did on this album.”
“A lot of people like hearing these tunes that they grew up with,” says the guitarist, who remembers playing some of these ‘70s staples on the 8-track console in his ’69 GMC van with shag carpeting back in his youthful days in Omaha, Nebraska. “It brings people in and they’ll go with you when they hear a tune that they recognize. But the challenge, always, is to find tunes that I can do my thing to, improvise and play as creatively and musically as I would on any jazz standard. And I enjoy the challenge.”
Four years after moving from Omaha to New York in 1980, Stryker began playing on the organ circuit with bluesy Hammond B-3 organ master Jack McDuff, who had seen such great guitarists as George Benson, Pat Martino, Grant Green and Billy Rogers pass through the ranks of his band. So dealing in that earthy B-3 format on Eight Track and Eight Track II is like returning home for Stryker. But 30 years later, the guitarist’s six-string expression has deepened while his blues-and-bop chops remain razor sharp.
“I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to play with masters like McDuff and Stanley Turrentine, guys who played that style and just had it in their blood. There’s nothing like being able to be on the bandstand with guys like that. Now I try to play my own way and stretch things a little bit. It’s still in the pocket but I feel like I’m trying to have my own take on things with this new group.”
The intrepid quartet kicks off Eight Track II with the Isley Brothers’ anti-war protest song “Harvest for the World,” which they handle as a vibrant shuffle with some hip reharmonizations. Stryker’s warm-toned flow of notes is mirrored by Nelson’s glistening vibes on the catchy head. The guitarist takes his time building an impressive solo, which is brimming with double-timed flurries and blues-soaked lines.
Their take on Marvin Gaye’s anthemic “What’s Going On,” title track of his 1971 song cycle addressing drug abuse, poverty and the Vietnam War -- themes that still resonate with relevancy today -- opens with a delicate balladic intro featuring vibes and guitar in unison. As they fall into the familiar theme, rendered here in 6/8, Stryker ‘sings’ the melody through his axe before developing that motif through the course of his probing solo. Nelson explores in introspective fashion on his vibes solo and Gold pushes the envelope on his own dextrous solo as Stryker comps pianistically behind him. The band shifts to a 4/4 groove for the last minute of the piece, giving the listener a little jolt.
Another Gaye staple, 1972’s “Trouble Man,” is given an earthy shuffle-swing treatment. Nelson channels his inner Bobby Hutcherson on his envelope-pushing solo here while Stryker remains firmly rooted in a blues ‘n hard bop bag, summoning up some Wes-like octaves along the way.
A mellow rendition of John Barry’s evocative “Midnight Cowboy,” the Grammy-winning instrumental theme from the 1969 movie of the same name, features nice octaves work and gentle extrapolation by Stryker. Nelson’s luminous solo is underscored by McClenty’s supple brushwork and Gold’s luxurious B-3 cushion.
Stretching the rules a bit, Stryker next leaps out of the ‘70s and into the early ‘80s for a killer uptempo swing version of Prince’s 1984 hit, “When Doves Cry,” fueled by McClenty’s rapid-fire ride cymbal work and Gold’s unerring walking basslines. Stryker’s cooking here, while both Nelson and Gold bring some heat of their own with incendiary solos. Hunter adds an exhilarating drum solo to put an exclamation point on this burner.
A gentle reading of Stevie Wonder’s “Send One Your Love” showcases Stryker’s lyrical side while the quartet digs into The Temptations’ “Can’t Get Next to You” with visceral intensity, spurred on by Hunter’s muscular backbeat. “That’s what I love about McClenty,” says Stryker. “He can swing but he’s got a serious pocket too, and he can slam!” Gold delivers the kind of show-stopping solo here that harkens back to the golden days of the organ lounges. “I played with McDuff, I got to play with Jimmy Smith and Dr. Lonnie Smith, and they were all masters,” says Stryker, “but of the new generation, Jared is my man. His harmony is heavy. His lines are not the typical thing you hear from organ players. I really think he’s special.”
Their rendition of The Zombie’s “Time of the Season” is handled as a cool shuffle swing number with the guitar-vibes combo upfront and Gold’s hip, syncopated basslines percolating underneath. Stryker lets it rip in his solo here and is followed by Gold and Nelson, who each turn in dazzling solos. The three exchange eights with Hunter at the tag in classic bop fashion.
A driving rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Seal Delivered” features one of Stryker’s most inspired solos on the record. From that dynamic number, they slide into the alluring James Ingram ballad “One Hundred Ways,” handled with relaxed soulfulness by the crew. They close with a tough shuffle-swing rendition of Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love” that sounds like something Stryker might have played with McDuff up at Dude’s Lounge in Harlem back in the day. Everyone gets a taste on this foot-stomping finale. “I have a long history with that song,” says the guitarist. “I actually played it as a solo guitar piece in my 6th grade talent show!"
These nostalgic ‘70s anthems are deeply ingrained in Stryker’s consciousness. And the earthy feel of the organ quartet sound is imbedded deep in his bones after 30 years of playing on the scene. He successfully, joyfully combines the two on Eight Track II.
(condensed from the liner notes by Bill Milkowski)
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Wes Montgomery Tribute Day IUPUI Campus Center Indianapolis IN http://www.indyjazzfest.
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Clark University Worchester MA
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