Dave Stryker (guitar) and Steve Slagle (alto, soprano sax) have a long standing musical relationship, and this “debut” album is far from the first time these veteran sidemen have recorded together in the studio. Nor is the rhythm section of Tim Horner (drums) and Bill Morning (bass) a new addition. All these musicians have not only played together, they’ve joined together in a working group that has stuck together for a remarkable seven years, gigging together even as each member pursed a variety of projects.
So this is hardly a novice effort. But it is the first sample of Stryker and Slagle as co-leaders, and their work here reveals that close-knit playing which emerges only out of shared experience.
The album features seven compositions which cover a wide variety of styles. Slagle contributed four, Stryker two, and Tim Horner the delicately spun “Hands of the Sculptress,” dedicated to his wife and her art.
Each track sings with a certain fraternal satisfaction, the bond between the musicians creating a smooth, laid-back atmosphere. Absent, however, is the muscular force expressed in the group’s live playing. This may be because neither Moring nor Horner solo, depriving the sound of a certain diversity, and causing some of the creative sparks that fly between the four on stage to become lost. Part of the problem, if there is a problem, lies in the mildly washed-out sound of the cymbals, which again seems to be a relatively constant recording hurdle. Comparing live music to recorded, though, should never produce a hierarchical judgment, as the two processes are quite distinct.
In this case, the recorded product presents quiet, fluid renditions, the overall effect one of poise, humor, and excellent musicianship. In addition to the already mentioned “Hands of the Sculptress,” of particular note are “Every Dark Street,” a sumptuously slow blues that winds its way through its own darkness, and the Brazilian influenced “Tudo Muda.”
Personnel: Dave Stryker-Guitar
Steve Slagle-Alto & Soprano Saxes