On Baker's Circle
, guitarist Dave Stryker
revisits a format in which he is quite comfortable: an organ-driven rhythm ensemble whose emphasis is on hard-nosed contemporary swing. There is, however, a refreshing exclamation mark this time around in the person of able-bodied tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III
, and one more fringe benefit (on three tracks): percussionist Mayra Casales
, who adds even more energy to an already vigorous session. Jared Gold
is the soulful organist, with versatile drummer McClenty Hunter
making it a quartet most of the way. The album opens with the first three of Stryker's four stalwart compositions before braving Cole Porter's seductive "Everything I Love" and Gold's fast-moving "Rush Hour." Stryker's buoyant "Baker's Circle" is sandwiched between Leon Russell's pensive "Superstar" and Marvin Gaye
's gritty "Inner City Blues," which lead to Ivan Lins
' amorous "Love Dance" and the shuffling "Trouble (No. 2)," first recorded by Stryker's former boss, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine
, wherein Smith produces a creditable likeness of Turrentine without ceding his own voice. "Trouble," by the way, whether by design or chance, closely resembles Peggy Lee
's chart-buster, "Fever." Stryker's other charts"Tough," "El Camino," "Dreamsong"are in keeping with the general tenor and purpose of the album.
It speaks well of Stryker that he has chosen such talented and well-spoken colleagues. While Stryker's solos are efficient and dependable, even he must applaud Gold and Smith for their flair and resourcefulness, and Hunter for his unflagging support. Baker's Circle
is truly a team effort, which is what raises it above the ordinary. Stryker's admirable arrangements certainly aid the cause, as does Casales' emphatic percussion. This is music with heart and soul, warmly served by artists whose earnest belief in their handiwork is commendable.
Tough; El Camino; Dreamsong; Everything I Love; Rush Hour; Superstar; Baker’s Circle;
Inner City Blues; Love Dance; Trouble (No. 2).