Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Acing the course: Prof. Dave Stryker notches more than academic success in 'Strykin' Ahead'

Guitarist Dave Stryker has a date at the Jazz Kitchen.
I've noted in another post my preference for reading books and listening to recordings in the order the artist/producers have decided. No shuffling for me! I think I get the sense of how I'm supposed to take in new creative art when I follow the order the product lays out for me. There must be a reason for that order, mustn't there?

Accordingly, I found "Strykin' Ahead," the new Strikezone CD by Dave Stryker supplementing his organ trio (Jared Gold, McClenty Hunter) with vibraphonist Steve Nelson to be at its most persuasive with the nine tracks listened to a couple of times in order. Among Stryker's many credentials is the post he holds as adjunct professor of jazz guitar at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music.

In the middle, the quartet offers a fleet original: the title tune. The disc starts with another original, an unconventional blues that allows for an abstract approach to the form. At the end is Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," one of the most famous bebop contrafacts, based on a song long known to millions of Hoosiers, "(Back Home Again in) Indiana."  This not only finds the players on common ground; it also reflects back on Stryker's "New You," based on the standard "There Will Never Be Another You."

That's the third song, and it's one of the strongest new contrafacts I've come across. It picks up on a conspicuous part of the song, using it as a motive that both recalls "There Will Never Be Another You" and manages to stay free of obviousness.

Maybe it's the band's rethinking of some tunes I know well that leads me to prefer this disc over last year's "Eight Track II," which is also an imaginative piece of work using the same players, but draws on recent pop that I'm less close to. Fans who know either "Eight Track" CD or become acquainted with the new one are likely to agree with me that this is a real ensemble, its players interdependent and mutually reliant.

When Stryker goes on tour as fall gets under way, he will come to the Jazz Kitchen in October. But, however adept his colleagues here may be, it's a little regrettable he can't tour with the three players on "Strykin' Ahead." If you only heard one track from "Strykin' Ahead" and it happened to be a rhythmically rearranged version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," you'd have all the evidence you need of the seamless rapport of Stryker, Gold, Hunter, and Nelson.

Just the subtlety of how the organ solo is launched out of tendrils of the tune is spine-tingling. But, despite the gems in the details, my main impression remains focused on the band's compatibility and its collective imagination throughout.

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