Guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist Steve Slagle are back with a live recording. What was to be a studio date turned around on a Stryker moment of inspiration when he suggested that the band record the two nights they were playing at the Jazz Standard in New York City. That idea has been augmented by the choice of material, with different styles bringing in a good balance and the sequencing adding to the impact.
The quartet is tight and right in the groove. Bassist Ed Howard and drummer Victor Lewis, who are playing with Stryker and Slagle for the first time, fit right in. Yes, there were some kinks during rehearsals, but they were all ironed out, and their playing is passionate and adds punch to the rhythm section. The four serve notice right off as they slip into "Mozone," a hot, liquid track where Slagle weaves on the alto, snaking into the upper register, while Lewis invigorates the pulse with his beat. Stryker cools the burn, his guitar speaking loquaciously through the run of notes and chord structures.
There's a slow dissolve into the blues on "Doubleblue" before the piece gets a deeper hue that is splashed primarily by Slagle, with Howard adding secondary colors, the etch getting deeper on the horn. And then comes the classic blues feel as essayed by Stryker, the parameters given wider dimension by Lewis, who uses the cymbals to widen the canvas. The defining moment comes on "I Loves You Porgy." It couldn't be otherwise, as Slagle digs deep into the core of emotion and come up trumps, Lewis uses the brush and the rustle of the cymbals, Howard keeps the tick steady and unobtrusive, and Stryker keeps it deliberate and spare.
Personnel: Dave Stryker: guitar; Steve Slagle: alto and soprano saxophones; Ed Howard: bass; Victor