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  • Writer's pictureJAM

Dave Stryker As We Are

Guitarist, bandleader, and composer Dave Stryker’s new album is a bright delight. It’s peopled with icons and luminaries (John Patitucci, bass; Brian Blade, drums; and Julian Shore, piano) and a string quartet led by Sara Caswell. The album has an energetic, airy sound, like ‘90s Pat Metheny, and Blade captures that light, Paul Wertico touch on cymbals, though Blade uses more drums, melodically whirring over the toms and snare. The album also has more than a touch of golden era Chick Corea, with that staccato, stop-and-go sound, Patitucci, deftly keeping time on bass. The string quartet lends a light, spacious sound, as if Stryker’s chords and individual notes can be extended indefinitely, the quartet bowing behind him, stretching what Stryker plays until it almost hits the horizon.

Most of the tracks on this album are Stryker originals, minus two: one by Nick Drake River Man, and one by Shore One Thing at a Time. Julian Shore, a Rhode Islander, arranged the album’s tunes, setting everything for strings and creating a lush sound. Stryker calls this album his “dream project,” and it is dreamy. In it, Stryker rises to new heights, ascending alongside Patitucci, Blade, and Shore.

The album features Stryker well, who solos brightly and consummately across these custom-built tunes. There’s a lot of tension and release, particularly with the strings, which often begin and end tunes. The violins, for instance, will set the mood, and Stryker and crew will propel upward, rocket-like from melody to bridge. There are no snorers in Stryker’s 34th album as a leader. It’s an album of energy and electricity, plus momentum. You too will enjoy it. Get it. And, if you can go, see Stryker live, when he visits.

Stryker has more than one KC connection. He plays in our region at the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series in Columbia, MO, in early April at Rose Park. Also, Stryker was frontman in drummer Matt Kane’s group at The Blue Room a few years ago, and it may go without saying that Kane is a product of the KC system, a UMKC grad and once young ascendent drummer for Alaadeen.

Stryker was also featured as part of the line-up for several bright jazz stars and luminaries. This includes Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff, and KC’s own Kevin Mahogany. Mahogany fronted for the Dave Stryker Organ Trio at the Cape May Jazz, in Cape May, New Jersey as late as May 2015, less than three years before the late great Mahogany’s death.

Stryker and Mahogany had an extensive collaborative history, touring and performing together, spanning to places like the Litchfield Jazz Festival. Stryker is also featured on a few Mahogany recordings, including Another Time and Place (1997), Pride & Joy (2002), and Old, New, Borrowed & the Blues (2012).

These albums begin to chart and catalogue Stryker’s time with the famed, consummate singer. Presumably during his time with Mahogany, renowned jazz critic and historian Gary Giddins called Stryker, “One of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years.”

—Kevin Rabas

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