Archive for dave stryker

Album Review: Strykin’ Ahead – Dave Stryker

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2017, CD Reviews with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2017 by curtjazz

DAVE STRYKER – Strykin’ Ahead (Strikezone Records)

Dave-Stryker-Strykin-Ahead-CoverIn my book, veteran guitar master Dave Stryker has been on a hot streak of late. The former Jack McDuff and Stanley Turrentine sideman has released a new project in each of the last four years on his own Strikezone label and each has been better than its predecessor. His latest, Strykin’ Ahead, continues that trend.

While Stryker has always been a strong performer in any setting, I’ve personally grown quite fond of the guitar/organ/vibes/drums configuration that he has used on his two “Eight Track” albums as well as on this one. I first fell in love with that sound when I first heard Grant Green’s Street of Dreams, and Big John Patton’s Let ‘Em Roll, some three decades ago. For me, there’s something about this type of quartet sound that’s relaxing, yet energizing.

Set free from the conceptual moorings of the Eight Track and Turrentine tribute dates, Mr. Stryker and his regular cohorts, Jared Gold on organ, McClenty Hunter on drums and vibraphonist Steve Nelson, deliver an eclectic and consistently interesting mix of jazz favorites and Stryker originals.  It may sound like a cliché, but there was truly not a bad track on the disc. They hit the ground running with “Shadowboxing”, a hard-charging, Stryker-penned minor blues, and they don’t look back. Stryker’s strong compositional skills are a revelation to me, since I’ve only really become familiar with his work as a leader, over the last five years. “New You”, is a bright and infectious tune, based on the changes of “There Will Never Be Another You”, highlighted by hard swinging solos by Stryker, Nelson and Gold. “Blues Down Deep”, is exactly what the title implies – 100% blues grease, with Stryker holding a séance with the spirits of a pair of Kings (B.B. and Albert), while Gold testifies on the B3. It was the blues, but it made me feel good.

The high points of the cover tunes were a bouncy “Joy Spring”, where I not only appreciated Stryker’s guitar but also Gold’s fine work on the pedals, as he kept a compelling bass line. Nelson is on point on this number as well as throughout the rest of the disc. He is truly a pro’s pro and he is a welcome addition to Stryker’s group. Billy Strayhorn’s “Passion Flower”, gets a nice reworking as a light bossa, with Nelson’s vibes as the star. “Who Can I Turn To”, was a most pleasant surprise. I’ve never cared much for the tune, perhaps owing to the many overwrought vocal versions that I’ve endured over the years. This group turns it into a lovely jazz waltz, with very tasty solos from all involved, especially the leader. Perhaps I’ll give the song another chance.

Strykin’ Ahead is Dave Stryker’s 28th album as a leader and my personal favorite, so far. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, it’s a good place to start. It’s one of the best jazz albums of 2017.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars – One of the best Jazz albums of 2017

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2015

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2015, Jazz in Charlotte with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2015 by curtjazz

Well, well ,well…What a difference a year makes…

Eugenie Jones | Come Out Swingin'Last year this time we jazz lovers were once again fending off the usual spate of “Jazz is Dead” announcements from various “serious” publications and also from a satirical “writer” named Django Gold, who thought it would be funny to pen an article, purporting to be Sonny Rollins, claiming to hate jazz.

Now, perhaps because jazz has proven to have more lives than Freddy Krueger, there have been in the past couple of months, an article in The Washington Post and an article/pictorial in Vanity Fair, celebrating jazz and [gasp], the young musicians that represent its future.

This kind of national-level publicity, along with what is happening on  local scenes (such as right here in Charlotte, NC, with the Jazz Arts Initiative, led by my friends, drummer Ocie Davis and flutist Lonnie Davis) has given my cynical middle-aged heart, a smidgen of hope for what is ahead for the music that I love.

I was also greatly encouraged by the tremendous crop of first-rate jazz recordings this year. A major contributor to this is that the jazz world has all but broken free of looking for the approval of the major record label conglomerates. For new jazz recordings, indie labels and self releases have become the rule, not the exception. In fact on my list, only six of the 25 albums have some sort of tie to what would be considered a major label.

And the music itself, cuts across a spectrum of styles, influences and even chronological ages – from vocalists Cecile McLorin Salvant who is 26, to the legendary Tony Bennett, still relevant and vital at 89; from instrumentalists such as Albert “Tootie” Heath, the youngest of The Heath Brothers, at 80; to the exciting twenty-somethings who lead some of the tracks on the wildly creative compilation, Supreme Sonacy, Volume 1.

Yes friends, jazz is still very much alive and kicking some butt. And without further ado, here is a list of 26 recordings that kicked my butt in 2015, in alphabetical order by album title. As usual, we will follow this list with discussions and clips from each of the albums over the next few days. In each title is embedded a link to a place to purchase the CD or download of each recording.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Glorious Kwanzaa and Happy New Year, everyone!

Best Jazz Albums of 2014 – A Closer Look: Part 1 of 5

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014 with tags , , , , , , on December 27, 2014 by curtjazz

CatherineRussellBringItBackAs always, we try to make our year-end “Best Of” more than just a list. But we also know that 25 albums at once is a rather formidable bite to swallow. So we’ve decided to take them a few at a time. Here are some thoughts and clips for the first 5 albums in our alphabetical group of 25:

 

  • Amalgamations – Ali Jackson (Sunnyside) The drummer for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra stepped out of the formidable shadow of his mentor, Wynton Marsalis and dropped a fascinating album loaded with creativity. Jackson takes us to Cuba, the Caribbean, 52nd Street, the prison yard and the church. And he manages to make it a seamless trip. The guest spots from many of his LCJO cohorts elevates things to the highest level. The title of the first cut sums it up: “Ali’s Got Rhythm” 
  • The Art of Conversation – Kenny Barron and Dave Holland (Impulse!) – You know that this record could not be anything but good, with two of the best in the business doing their thing. But it goes further as they approach every track with such emotional investment that the album manages to be great. A nice mix of compositions by the leaders, with a few jazz classics keep everything from sounding alike. These two gentlemen have just completed a tour in support of this music. Hopefully there will be another recording coming soon.
  • Beautiful Life – Jimmy Greene (Mack Avenue) – This album was the most emotional listening experience for me this year. As many know, saxophonist Jimmy Greene’s 6-year-old daughter Ana, was one of the 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, two years ago. Mr. Greene has turned the wrenching heartbreak of this unspeakable tragedy into the best album of his career. Anything but solemn and mournful,  Beautiful Life is a brilliant and often uplifting remembrance with guests such as Kenny Barron, Kurt Elling, Pat Metheny and Cyrus Chestnut giving their all in musical support.
  • Bring it Back – Catherine Russell (Jazz Village) – The daughter of Luis Russell, who was Louis Armstrong’s longtime bandleader, and Carline Ray, who sang and played bass and guitar with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm during WWII, this former backup singer for David Bowie and Steely Dan, who didn’t record her first solo album until her mid ’40’s, reached her full potential with this album. Using the works from her parent’s heyday as a starting point, Ms. Russell respects the swing tradition while imbuing the proceedings with a modern blues sheen. Her voice has the gritty edge of a woman who has been around but it’s leavened by a youthful lightness that shines through on the uptempo numbers. I admit to having missed her before now, but after this disc I will catch up because Catherine Russell is the truth.
  • Eight Track – Dave Stryker (Strikezone) – Veteran guitarist Dave Stryker and his organ-based trio rework some great pop and soul tunes of the seventies into a pure soul-jazz groove. What elevates this date above average fare of this type is the total investment of the trio and the stellar work of guest star Stefon Harris on vibes. Guitar, organ, vibes and drums is not standard instrumentation these days (think back to Big John Patton’s Let ‘Em Roll for a great example) but these cats make it shine. It’s all great but the “Superfly/Pusherman” medley is a damn classic. Smooth Jazzers take note. This is how it’s done.

Tracks from these and all of the other Best Jazz of 2014 Selections may be heard on Curt’s Cafe Noir Streaming WebJazz Radio starting December 27 and continuing throughout January of 2015. Click HERE to access the station.

Our next post will discuss the next five alphabetical selections in our Best Jazz Albums of 2014 list.

Until then, the jazz continues…

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2014

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by curtjazz

ali jacksonThe Pop Music press went apoplectic when Beyoncé and a few others, dropped their latest projects online in the middle of the night, with no advance promotion.When I heard that my first thought was: Oh, please! In jazz, we call that “Tuesday”.

The fact that an eclectic release schedule has become the norm, did force me to play catch-up on a few releases in the last month. I’m glad I did as several of them went right from my ears to this list.

I’m also breaking my “tradition” in that I’m publishing the full list first. Since it is relatively late this year, I figured that we’d cut to the chase and then follow with the rationales and video clips in several posts over the next week. I also was unable to get out a mid-term list this year so instead we’re doing it in one glorious heap.

That said, her are 25 Jazz projects that moved me this year, in alpha order by album title. Comments and disagreements are always welcomed:

Tracks from these albums and more can be heard on Curt’s Cafe Noir, our 24/7 streaming jazz radio station, starting December 27th, through most of January 2015.

We wish you all a very Happy, Healthy and Blessed Holiday Season.

Until the next time, the Jazz Continues…