The Scene finds guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist Steve Slagle collaborating for their fourth recording as co-leaders. The disc is a clever, soulful set of original progressive jazz featuring bassist Jay Anderson, drummer Victor Lewis and, on four tracks, special guest saxophonist Joe Lovano.
The sly bouncy opener "Skee," a dedication to the late bassist Dennis Irwin, sets the stage with spirited blowing by Slagle, Lovano, and Stryker over a punchy groove by Anderson and Lewis. The swinging title track, highlighted by an exceptional bass solo by Anderson, has a rather simple melody over a complex harmonic scheme. Indeed, much of the music here could be characterized by outwardly accessible elements shadowed by challenging improvisatory forms. Even Slagle's "Two Sense" full of twists and turns, maintains a lyrical quality with no-nonsense soloing.
Being veterans with established credentials, Stryker and Slagle concern themselves with musicality over showmanship. Both exhibit an adventurous, cut-to-the-chase style of soloing, at once playful and mindful of context. From mellow, blues-based lines ("Brighter Days") to up-tempo displays of technical skill ("Strikology"), the two keep things grounded and swinging.
The overall mood of the session changes slightly with Stryker on acoustic guitar for his composition "Kindred Spirits" and Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Fingers in the Wind," a duet with Slagle on flute. The subtle change in texture highlights the duo's willingness to diversify without sacrificing conceptual ideas.
Solid writing and flowing solos make The Stryker/Slagle Band an exciting component in contemporary jazz. The Scene is well worth repeated listening.
Personnel: Dave Stryker: guitar; Steve Slagle: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Jay Anderson: bass; Victor Lewis: drums; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone (1, 3, 6, 7).