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After last year's Live at The Jazz Standard, the Slagle/Stryker band reconvened in the studio to record a batch of new compositions. The general sound of Latest Outlook is completely different from the previous recordingthe leaders are the only two musicians to appear this time around, and the quartet is enhanced by the presence of Joe Lovano's tenor saxophone on two tracks.
The first impression you get is that they seem to swing harder in the confines of a studiowithout the time constraints of a "set," the group seems to play more freely and the improvisations sound a bit more spontaneous. Just check out Billy Hart's drum solo on "Latest Outlook and the dueling leads of the two saxophones on "Bird Flew, a Stryker original dedicated to Charlie Parker.
One track that immediately stands out is "Hartland, on which Stryker plays with a steel-string acoustic (though he overdubs an electric solo), providing a background to create more improvised moments; listen how bassist Jay Anderson takes advantage of this by playing subtler notes on his instrument and also engaging in a beautiful duet with Slagle during the main melody.
Lovano joins the quartet once again for "Dear Mr. Hicks, a Slagle original written in tribute to pianist John Hicks, who had recently passed at the time of the recording. As the liners state, Slagle played with him in the Mingus Big Band and the Joe Lovano Nonet, and the tune is intended "to represent his musical personality starting with an elegy that leads into some hard swing. He reaches that goal, and hearing the two saxophonists exchange jabs, backed by Anderson's steady walking bass, is a pleasure.
The highlight of this album is Charles Mingus' "Self-Portrait in Three Colors, the only cover on the disc. The tune's simple changes give the musicians a chance to explore their chops. Stryker is in his element, playing a song he knows well and doing it in his own way.
Track Listing: Knew Hold; Latest Outlook; Bird Flew; Hartland; Dear Mr. Hicks; Self-Portrait in Three Colors; Turning Point; In Just Time.
Personnel: Dave Stryker: guitar; Steve Slagle: alto and soprano saxophone; Jay Anderson: bass; Billy Hart: drums; Joe
Lovano: tenor saxophone (3,5).