Dave Stryker – Strykin’ Ahead – Strikezone 

Dave Stryker – Strykin’ Ahead – Strikezone Records 8815 59:39****:

A stylish endeavour

( Dave Stryker – guitar; Steve Nelson – vibes; Jared Gold – organ; McClenty Hunter – drums )

The configuration of an organ, guitar, drums jazz trio seems to have been around since God was a boy. However adding vibes to the mix offers another sound dimension that is more than simply the addition of one instrument. Guitarist Dave Stryker’s new release Strykin’ Ahead demonstrates that this new cohort provides an imaginative take on an album of originals and jazz stalwarts.

The band leads off with a Stryker original “Shadowboxing” which is an animated minor blues and defines the possibilities that the band will pursue in its excursions of improvisation. Following along is a Wayne Shorter piece called “ Footprints” offered up in ballad style with a 5/4 time signature. Within the frame provided by the number, the principals find corners of the melody to develop a sensitive and expressive reading.

Billy Strayhorn’s lovely number “Passion Flower” takes on a new meaning as it is given a Latin vibe by way of the feather light brushes of drummer McClenty Hunter. The album’s title track “Strykin’ Ahead” is another Stryker original and it is a burner. Stryker shows his mastery of the fret board as he delivers a solo abounding with burning energy. Pushed along by Hunter’s drumming Nelson dances over the vibes followed by organist Gold’s brawny proficiency.

In a nod to the bop masters, two well known anthems are given covers, namely Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring” and Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee”.

On the former, the band demonstrates their precise and integral relationship with each other. Nelson is an assured vibraphonist with a bountiful  technique and a soft percussive style. Both guitarist Stryker and organist Gold are acutely symbiotic as they flex their digital nimbleness. The latter number opens with some deft unison playing by Stryker and Nelson as they run though the characteristically  boppish melody. This gives way to some stylish swinging and bravado soloing by the key instrumentalists and an in the money drum break from Hunter.

This is a stylish endeavour from a distinctly measured band.

New You
Passion Flower
Strykin’ Ahead
Blues Deep Down
Joy Spring
Who Can I Turn To
Donna Lee

—Pierre Giroux

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