Dave Stryker ‘Strykin’ Ahead’ CD (Strikezone) 5/5

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of the music of guitarist Dave Stryker. He seems to be releasing albums at a great rate of knots at the moment and here’s another.

Perhaps the first thing to say is that this music will not set the world alight. But that doesn’t mean that it is anything less than accomplished. Stryker sticks with the format that he has used on his previous most recent releases, adhering to the motto ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. Here we have a selection of original compositions and reharmonised standards from the jazz and show tunes songbooks. It’s the clever reharmonisations that I like so much. Not to mention the punning titles that he gives his albums. His regular band-mates are here; Steve Nelson on vibraphone, Jared Gold on organ and the gloriously named McClenty Hunter on drums.

The set opens with ‘Shadowboxing’, a tricky little theme which soon settles into a swinging, bluesy groove. This serves as an introduction to the talents of the band members who all acquit themselves well.

‘Footprints’, the familiar Wayne Shorter piece is up next and the theme surreptitiously emerges after a clever introduction from the guitarist.
Stryker writes attractive themes and ‘New You’ is no exception.

This group is particularly proficient on ballads and it is interesting to hear how the familiar melody of ‘Passion Flower’ evolves. The listener is drawn into the tapestry of sound created by these master musicians.

‘Strykin’ Ahead’ is an up-tempo swinger and certainly delivers the goods.

‘Blues Down Deep’ is exactly what you would imagine. A blues taken at a very relaxed tempo, again something that these musicians excel at.
Next is an eight minute exposition of ‘Joy Spring’. Again, the musicians are able to bring something fresh to their reading of this familiar jazz standard.

‘Who Can I Turn To’, another familiar song is cast in new clothing to great effect and to me sounds quite joyous.

The album concludes with ‘Donna Lee’. One would think there was little new to be said about this tune, but once again, the band manage to put a new slant on familiar, almost hackneyed material.

Dave Stryker and friends have once again produced a most enjoyable set on modern mainstream jazz which I hope will be popular with jazz enthusiasts. Stryker is certainly a talent deserving of wider recognition. Perhaps this album will go some way to garnering a wider audience for the man from West Orange, New Jersey.

Alan Musson