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Considering that forty-something guitarist Dave Stryker has made over a dozen albums under his own name, leads a sharp quartet with Steve Slagle, and is in constant demand as a sideman working in the past with Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff, Javon Jackson, and Kevin Mahogany, you'd think he'd be practically a household name. Unfortunately that's not the case, but his first Blue to the Bone project from a few years back did seem to attract some critical plaudits and bring into the circle some added new fans. And now that the second offering in this series has just made its debut here in America, one can only hope that the good vibes just keep building.
As great as the first set was, it's without hesitation that I deem this new one a valiant leap forward. For the neophyte, the concept is really quite simple- get together a modest-sized horn section, bring a B-3 along, and write some charts that accent a "blue" point of view. But while the prior record leaned a bit more on the classic 12-bar blues form, this set offers up a colorful diversity in terms of song structure. Of course, Stryker can get down with his bad self, as he more than adequately proves on a cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Sittin' On the Top of the World."
Somehow the spicy gumbo of the Crescent City proves to be a perfect adjunct to the blues in Stryker's mind, with both originals "Mystery Street" and "Goin' To New Orleans" spurred on by Adam Nussbaum's "second line" drumming and the guitarist's processed tone, akin to a slide-steel at times. His solo spot on the former makes potent use of distortion and note bending. Balanced by an Ellington gem and a Steve Slagle original, a few tunes that have been previously recorded get a facelift too, including "Mood" and "24 For Elvin," an extended form with a modal quality to it that does indeed suggest Elvin Jones' work with the classic John Coltrane quartet.
Sharing the solo honors with Stryker and equally beguiling in the long run are trumpeter Brian Lynch, alto saxophonist Steve Slagle, pianist Bruce Barth, and drummer Adam Nussbaum. They, along with the charts and an elation that the blues almost paradoxically provide, make for an end product that is indeed greater than the sum of the parts. Now, here's waiting with baited breath for the release of Stryker's latest project inspired by Miles Davis' Bitches Brew period. Bring it on SteepleChase!
Track Listing: Rockin' In Rhythm, Goin' to New Orleans (introduction), Goin' to New Orleans, Sittin' On Top of the World, 24 For Elvin, Mystery Street, The Squeeze, Mood, Mug Shot (62:14)
Personnel: Dave Stryker- guitar, Brian Lynch- trumpet, Steve Slagle- alto sax & flute, Clark Gayton- trombone, Bob Parsons- baritone saxophone, Bruce Barth- piano & organ, Jay Anderson- bass, Adam Nussbaum- drums