Guitarist Dave Stryker is back with his 29th release as a leader and the sequel album to his enjoyable and successful “Eight Track” of 2014. The intriguing concept of these recordings gathers selections from the eight track tape era as interpreted by Stryker's working trio that features Jared Gold playing organ and McClenty Hunter at the drums. The veteran vibraphonist Steve Nelson makes it a quartet.
Stryker says ”A lot of people like these tunes that they grew up with. 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 therein lies the key to Stryker's successes: he is able to make these numbers his own, imbued as they are with a deep sensitivity for the blues and impeccable musicianship. And it certainly helps that his trio is a tight, intuitive group. The addition of Nelson, who has been recording for decades and has played with Jackie McLean, David “Fathead” Newman, Kenny Barron, Mulgrew Miller, the Dave Holland Quintet and Big Band and led his own albums, is a joy. The bright, percussive sound of the vibes blends well with the fat organ trio sound and is a combination that worked for Grant Green, Big John Patton and Joey DeFrancesco over the years (think Bobby Hutcherson), making for an inviting instrumental setting that pleases the ears.
The date opens with The Isley Brothers' “Harvest for the World” taken as an upbeat shuffle. Gold's organ lays down a chordal foundation as Stryker and Nelson state the theme in unison. Stryker's rich, six-string guitar work is always appealing – it swings with a natural flow of bluesy ideas. Nelson's lustrous vibes sound is followed by Gold's exuberant organ solo. It's music for cruising with the top down.
The Marvin Gaye number “What's Going On” is taken at a relaxed, balladic pace while Gaye's “Trouble Man” follows with its brooding theme set up by Hunter's cymbals, Nelson's vibes incantations and Gold's organ before the group moves into a soulful, walking beat that is framework for explorative solos from the group. Nelson is incisive and builds a fascinating solo, Stryker reaches inside the melody to evoke a brilliant, chorded solo and Gold rocks the beat to the tune of Hunter's insistent drums. What's going on is a good ole jazz cooker.
“Midnight Cowboy” features laid back solos from the group and Prince's “When Doves Cry” is a freer affair with blistering solos from Stryker, Nelson and Gold as Hunter keeps the heat turned up and has a solo turn himself. Stevie Wonder's “Send One Your Love” gives the speakers a chance to cool for awhile and one can reflect upon the quality of the leader's full-bodied guitar sound, his choice of notes and phrasing that consistently make for engaging listening.
Hunter's drumset work is a showcase in itself and, although he is featured in mostly a supporting roll, his presence is anything but obscure. “I Can't Get Next to You” is a case in point with Hunter laying down an insistent beat as the rest of the band deals with the melody. There's a fascinating solo from Nelson that turns things inside out and sets a pattern for angular improvisation that clearly dispels any notion that this is “pop” material. Jazz welcomes and enhances all. Gold gets into a rip-roaring solo with the kick bass prodding things along.
The Zombies “Time of the Season” has attracted jazz musicians before but Stryker and the group put this one securely in the pocket with a breezy statement of the melody followed by attractive solos with some Wes Montgomery influenced guitar chords, Gold's harmonic attack at the organ and Nelson's recurrent embellishments to this album.
Stevie Wonder's “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Your's” is upbeat with the irrepressible Hunter spurring the band through some gritty solos while “One Hundred Ways” is an easy-going ballad showcasing Stryker's marvelous guitar voice. Cream's “Sunshine of Your Love”closes the date with a swinging treatment that affords each band member opportunity to reach down into their bag of tricks and make some soulful statements.
Yes, it's licks a plenty on Dave Stryker's “Eight Track II” - familiar melodies performed at a level of musicianship that makes these pieces thoroughly new. This “retro”affair is looking straight ahead.
Dave Stryker: guitar
Steve Nelson: vibraphone
Jared Gold: organ
McClenty Hunter: drums
Harvest for the World; What’s Going On; Trouble Man; Midnight Cowboy; When Doves Cry;
Send One Your Love, Can’t Get Next to You; Time of the Season; Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours; One Hundred Ways; Sunshine of your Love