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Dave Stryker: As We Are

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Dave Stryker: As We Are
Pat Metheny has a section of his website entitled "Pat Recommends," where he discusses jazz guitarists whom he believes are "making the best music of their careers" on their recent recordings. Dave Stryker is one of the musicians Metheny mentions, and this is certainly an accurate assessment. Dave Stryker has established himself as one of the foremost guitarists in jazz, and with As We Are, he adds another important contribution to his discography.

Stryker has a phenomenal work ethic. He's been playing professionally since the seventies, and has worked with an impressive list of artists, including Jack McDuff, Stanley Turrentine, Eliane Elias, and many others. He's also had a successful solo career, including his popular Eight Track (2016) series, Blue Soul (2020) with Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band, and Baker's Circle (2021), all on Strikezone Records. Along with these accomplishments, he is an Adjunct Professor of Jazz guitar at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University. He is also actively involved in providing online jazz guitar tutorials.

As We Are marks Stryker's 34th album as a leader, and it proves that he is a continuously evolving artist whose music just seems to get better with each release. Here he teams up with bassist John Patitucci, pianist Julian Shore, and drummer Brian Blade. Along with these musicians, Stryker has added a string quartet, featuring Sara Caswell and Monica K. Davis on violin, Benni von Gutzeit on viola, and Marika Hughes on cello.

Although primarily recognized as a guitarist, As We Are highlights Stryker's talents in composition as well. Almost all of the selections included are Stryker originals, and they show a slightly different side of his music. While many of his past recordings feature a groove-oriented small group setting, the instrumentation here relies heavily on string arrangements. Obviously, incorporating strings into jazz is nothing new, but Stryker's approach is somewhat different from many traditional string arrangements. As he explains, "I always wanted to do something where strings would really be integrated into the music, not a coloring or sweetening that comes later."

The interaction of the string quartet with the traditional group format helps give the album a slight film soundtrack feel, and the artwork seems to reflect its musical narrative. The cover shows what appears to be a series of windows, drawing the eye from one room to another. Each song seems to tell its own story, but they are all connected through a central thread.

The compositions featured on As We Are show a wide range of jazz influences. From the Brazilian flavors of "Hope" or "Saudade" to "One Thing At A Time," with its 60s classic Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter undertones, the album has many effective nuances. Along with these influences, Stryker also includes a beautiful cover of Nick Drake's "River Man."

Throughout the album, the level of musicianship is impressive. Each of the players here is in top form. Stryker's guitar technique is excellent as always, and even though the musical style might be a bit different from what some might expect from him, this album is among his finest achievements. As Stryker points out, "it's my dream project," and As We Are is a deeply satisfying album on many levels. This is definitely one of the most thought-provoking and beautifully-crafted albums to come along in recent times.

Track Listing

Overture; Lanes; River Man; Hope; Saudade; One Thing At A Time; As We Were; Dreams Are Real; Soul Friend.

Personnel

Dave Stryker: guitar; John Patitucci: bass, acoustic; Julian Shore: piano; Brian Blade: drums; Sara Caswell: violin; Monica K. Davis: violin; Benni von Gutzeit: viola; Marika Hughes: cello.

Album information

Title: As We Are | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Strikezone Records

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