Germany's WDR Big Band has welcomed a great variety of musicians such as Fred Hersch
, Michel Camilo
, Ambrose Akinmusire
and Jimmy Heath
as guest soloists over the years. On this occasion they provide an invigorating backdrop for the springy and soulful guitar of Dave Stryker
The set list on this CD finds Stryker and the band tackling a combination of vintage pop and soul hits and the guitarist's original compositions, all arranged and conducted by saxophonist Bob Mintzer
. Stryker's easy-riding slickness, showing the influence of George Benson
and Wes Montgomery
, sounds particularity good bouncing off the horns' cool vamping on Marvin Gaye
's "Trouble Man" and "What's Going On" while Billy Test
's organ simmers underneath. On Jimmy Webb's classic "Wichita Lineman" the guitarist shifts to a thicker, country-flavored tone as he travels over a lightly waltzing rhythm filled with warm brass colors. Mintzer's arrangements of these tunes stays close to the originals but he changes things a bit with Prince's "When Doves Cry," having the band race through the tune at a fast tempo. In front of them, Stryker sprints over the melody before taking a whirlwind solo with Test again providing close organ support.
Stryker's own compositions are serviceable jazz pieces given color and depth by Minzter's arrangements. "Came To Believe" carries a nice bite and tension in the combination of Minzter's bright, stabbing horn arrangement and Stryker's tangled burrowing. "Shadowboxing" features a punchy conversation between the reed and brass sections while "Blues Strut" is a sporty shuffle with guitar riding closely on top of the band's bluesy shouts. It pairs up nicely with Stanley Turrentine
's "Stan's Shuffle," a more soulful version of the shuffle groove benefiting from a hard swinging rhythm laid down by bassist John Goldsby
and drummer Hans Dekker
Stryker is the featured soloist on this album but several of the big band's regular members have strong moments as well. Andy Hunter
has a lovely trombone turn on "Wichita Lineman," Karolina Strassmayer
's alto sax flows with soul on "What's Going On" and Johan Horlen
plays his alto with serpentine beauty on "Came To Believe" and "When Doves Cry." Conductor Mintzer contributes some of the hardest hitting music of the set himself with his authoritative red-blooded tenor on "Aha," "Blues Strut" and "Stan's Shuffle."
Dave Stryker and the WDR Big Band make a fine team here, combining for a rousing and enjoyable session of guitar-led big band jazz played with style and joy.
Trouble Man; Aha; What’s Going On; Came to Believe; Blues Strut; When Doves Cry; Wichita Lineman; Shadowboxing; Stan’s Shuffle.