The Stryker/Slagle Band – The Scene – Zoho ZM2000810, 55:12 ****1/2:
(Dave Stryker- guitar; Steve Slagle – alto, soprano sax; Jay Anderson – bass; Victor Lewis – drums; plus guest Joe Lovano – tenor sax on tracks 1, 3, 6, 7)
Post-bop—some of the hardest music to play convincingly. Yet the Stryker/Slagle Band, which has been plowing this somewhat tattered furrow for more than a decade, makes it sound as fresh as a field of daffodils. Catchy melodies, a wide-ranging musical vocabulary, uncanny ensemble playing, and inventive soloing characterize their approach. New member Victor Lewis, replacing Billy Hart on drums, brings an added dimension. The drummer for Bobby Watson’s great 90s post-bop band Horizon (which this group often sounds much like, especially on “Six Four Teo” and “Brighter Days”), Lewis is that rare combination of driving and detail-oriented, and he’s fully on his game here. Jay Anderson, a consummate craftsman, is perfect for the bass chair, whether anchoring the bottom or taking a tasty solo near the end of “The Sense.”
The two leaders, who split writing duties down the middle, stamp the proceedings with a brightness and invention that makes the music sparkle. Whether spinning off heartlandish outings (“Kindred Spirits”), neo-Latin numbers (“Six Four Teo”), Monk-like tunes (“Hopewell’s Last”), or straight-ahead burners (“Strikology”), they always sound fresh. The addition of Joe Lovano, a frequent collaborator, on four tracks jacks things up another level.
Six Four Teo
Fingers in the Wind
– Jan P. Dennis