Dave Stryker – Messin’ with Mr. T – Strikezone

Dave Stryker – Messin’ with Mr. T – Strikezone 8812, 70:32 ****1/2:

(Dave Stryker – guitar; Jared Gold – Hammond B-3 organ; McClenty Hunter – drums; Mayra Casales – percussion (# 2, 6-10)
Tenor sax guests: Eric Alexander, Dan Braden, Jimmy Heath, Javon Jackson, Mike Lee, Bob Mintzer, Tivon Pennicott, Houston Person, Chris Potter, Steve Slagle)

Dave Stryker was Stanley Turrentine’s main guitarist for around a decade (from the mid ‘80s until the mid ‘90s). After cutting his soul jazz teeth with Hammond B-3 legend, Brother Jack McDuff, Dave was ready for Turrentine’s tutelage and greatly developed his chops with Stanley as Turrentine became his good friend and mentor. Stanley’s prime output was during the 1960s and 1970s for Blue Note, CTI, and Fantasy, but he continued to tour till his passing in 2000. Stanley’s blend of soul jazz and hard bop was infectious and he became the prime tenor saxist on many of the classic CTI issues in the 1970s that featured dream aggregations such as Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Kenny Burrell, and many others of that period. Prior to that Stanley played straight-ahead hard bop with his brother Tommy Turrentine with Max Roach’s band and made a dream couple on many issues with his (then) wife, Shirley Scott, on her Hammond B-3 releases.

Stryker could have been content to record his tribute to Turrentine with his Hammond B-3 quartet featuring Jared Gold. But luckily for us, he was able to elicit the participation of ten of the finest tenor saxists on the scene today, each getting one track to pay homage to Mr. T. The song list is a winning combination of standards, and tracks that Turrentine made famous such as “Salt Song” and “Sugar.” These tracks were on set lists that Stryker played on a regular basis with his mentor during the decade that they were together on the road. Guest tenor greats include Houston Person, Don Braden, Jimmy Heath, Chris Potter, Eric Alexander, Bob Mintzer, Javon Jackson, and Stryker’s regular mate (in their bigger band), Steve Slagle. It must have been an interesting conversation between all the guests regarding who would play which single composition. From extended listening, I’d have to say that Stryker got it more than right…

From the opening “La Place Street” with muscular-toned Houston Person (whose old school swing strongly emulates Stanley) all the way to “Let It Go” with Tivon Pennicott, this CD is a stone cold winner. Stryker’s group features the young hot Hammond B-3 organist, Jared Gold, who is making a big name for himself among the latest generation of Hammond artist. They make a fine combo on their own, but with the addition of a new tenor on each cut, this becomes a dream CD for lovers of soul jazz and in particular lovers of Turrentine’s magic that we miss so much.

Each track has its own winning moments, whether it be the mellow groove of “Pieces of Dreams” with Stryker’s silky playing, Gold’s swing, and Mike Lee’s tenor touch; Don Braden’s “Don’t Mess with Mr. T,” which drips with soul jazz cred that will bring a smile to your face and a bounce to your step. The standard, “In a Sentimental Mood” begins with a Stryker solo before your heart will be touched by Jimmy Heath’s beyond lyrical tone. Oh, such emotion Jimmy shows…

I could sing the praises of each track with Chris Potter shining on “Impressions” and Eric Alexander and Javon Jackson making their own statements on Turrentine classics (and major CTI albums) Salt Song, and Sugar. But I’ll leave the pleasure of discovering your own favorites to those who will run out and buy this superb release. For lovers of Mr. T and soul jazz of the highest order, this is an absolute required purchase.

TrackList: La Place Street, Pieces of Dreams, Don’t Mess with Mr. T, In a Sentimental Mood, Impressions, Gibraltar, Salt Song, Sugar, Side Steppin’, Let It Go

—Jeff Krow

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