Dave Stryker takes his music up the road to the Jazz Kitchen

 Dave Stryker has capped his deeply rooted career in jazz guitar with academic credentials, including a

Rachel Caswell guests, flanked by Dave Stryker and Rob Dixon. 

well-established presence in Bloomington on the jazz faculty of Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. That's just one of three connections as an educator to put beside his recent addition to an online school. His well-schooled playing is not academic in any disparaging sense, however. 

Though well established in New York City for many years, Stryker drew upon Hoosier connections and a Louisville link for a return to the Jazz Kitchen Friday night. Sean Dobbins, a fellow adjunct professor at IU, was on drums, and their colleague Rachel Caswell joined the band for two numbers during the set I heard. Rob Dixon represented the home front on tenor sax, and Kentuckian Kendall "Keyz" Carter completed the traditional format on organ. 

Stryker's completeness as a bandleader was always evident. The soft edge of his tone covers a biting center, and the momentum is relentless. 

His comping behind Dixon's solo on the blues that opened Friday's first set never fell into routine: it was engaged and supportive.  Distribution of spotlight focus through "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" allowed each musician to etch a firm self-portrait. The way transitions between solos were handled shone in this Temptations song and throughout the set.

For a ballad contrast, Cole Porter's "Everything I Love" allowed both a tender lyricism and some assertiveness to emerge (particularly in Dixon's solo). For an extra touch of flavor, there was a succession of juicy chords in Carter's solo, and the exchanges with drummer involving the other three players were spicy toward the end.

Dixon's adaptability to all settings in which he finds himself was first-class. The unison statement of the rapid theme in Stryker's "Prime" was lively and blithely intact. Their individual solos seemed to blister the Jackson Pollock-knockoff paintings behind the bandstand. There was a deft call-and-response episode partnering sax and guitar in Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes."

As for Caswell's cameo appearance, I was especially impressed by the delicate ornamentation she lent to the evergreen melodic line of the Cahn-Styne gem "I Fall in Love Too Easily." It's easy to fall in love with a Stryker small-group performance on this level — and without the regret in those lyrics.

[Photo by Rob Ambrose]


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