The Turning Point Cafe
October 24, 2009
"That's what we like about jazz. It's never the same way once," quipped Dave Stryker near the end of an exhilarating seventy-five minute set. Forsaking the familiarity of his working bands for a fling with the Turning Point Cafe's Jazz Series rhythm section and front line soloist, the unrehearsed performance placed a premium on spontaneity and risk taking. Aside from introducing three of his compositions to saxophonist John Richmond, bassist Bill Moring, and drummer Steve Johns, Stryker made changes at will, like moving from a Latin-funk feel to straight jazz time on "Cantaloupe Island," and playing some of "Here's That Rainy Day" before morphing into the head of "I Wish I Knew."
The guitarist displayed a strong affinity for the blues and a healthy respect for ballads. Throughout the set's opener, simply referred to as "Blues In B Flat," he avoided standard licks and never reached for facile climaxes. Always staying in or near the pocket, Stryker gave the impression that he could play the blues all day and never wear out his welcome. During the brief foray into "Here's That Rainy Day," and on "Just In Time," his tender side encompassed an expansive flair, as he accentuated certain passages, interjected related sounds, and doled out pieces of the melody.
Stryker's solos on his composition "Workin' 50," a long hard bop theme with a Latin bridge, and a Latin-oriented treatment of "Monk's Dream," benefitted from the persistent push of Moring and Johns. Both improvisations displayed a knack for integrating edgy single note lines and chords. In one instance, the guitarist repeated a sequence consisting of two chords followed by a half dozen single notes. Later on, the singles were punctuated by one emphatic, ringing chord. In another instance he liberally quoted Thelonious Monk's melody, and followed with chords spread out over a couple of beats and then persistently strummed.
As always, Richmond, the Turning Point Café's Jazz Series curator, made essential contributions to the music. Editing phrasing down to the bare essentials, everything he played was for the sake of telling a coherent tale. During "Workin' 50" he evinced various rhythmic strategies, at first flying over the Latin bridge and then making each note hug its contours. His "Just In Time" solo began with short, wavy notes and gradually gained more heft. Utilizing some broad tones, he continued to expand the range of the improvisation without moving too far afield.
In keeping with the set's "spirit of the moment" ethos, Stryker ended with a tune written at three o'clock the previous morning; he asked the audience to suggest a title. (There were a couple of shout outs.) During an extended solo, the guitarist brought together diverse strands. For awhile he was simple and deliberate, getting the most out of every note and evincing a nice, understated blues feel. Stryker ratcheted up the tension by utilizing a variety of chords, from hard scratches to protracted chime-like strumming. He brought the dynamic level down to a whisper and cued the band into stop time. After the out head, Stryker had one more surprise in store. By gently quoting a few chords from Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary," he gave the impression that there are more aspects of his talent to be revealed, in another set, at another place and time.