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Dave Stryker Organ Quartet at Cecil's Jazz Club

David A. Orthmann By

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Dave Stryker Organ Quartet
Cecil's Jazz Club
West Orange, NJ
December 4, 2010

Guitarist and bandleader Dave Stryker straddles the line between art and entertainment as well as anyone in jazz. For those who simply wanted to have a good time, the opening set on the second night of his two night stand at Cecil's Jazz Club featured accessible versions of material made famous by The Beatles, Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson, and Billie Holiday. An abundance of blues jargon and frequent use of riffs behind the soloists, as well as Stryker's outgoing, sometimes self-deprecating stage demeanor, made this exactly the right group for Saturday night revelry.

On the other hand, there were more than enough interesting details for the jazz connoisseur to chew on. The six-song set featured an impressive unity and spirited interplay between the members of Stryker's tough little band, three primary soloists with distinct individual voices and a seriousness of intent which didn't distract from the evening's festivities.

An interpretation of John Coltrane's "Impressions" included frequent changes in tempo, as well as Stryker's hip song quotes from "My Favorite Things" and "Wade In The Water." Equally adept at shuffle beats, funk grooves and straight jazz time, drummer McClenty Hunter kept things moving in fine style. In the midst of "Impressions," all it took was a glance in his direction by Stryker to generate a change in the drummer's rhythms and dynamics.

Possessing a small, rather compact sound, tenor saxophonist Stephen Riley was a refreshing choice for a group with electric guitar and Hammond B-3 organ. The band often brought the volume down at the beginning of his solos. On "One For Reedus," Riley briefly quoted a Thelonious Monk tune and then waxed soulful in his own unconventional fashion, the few loud, labored screams not even remotely resembling the honkers and shouters of yore. His "Impressions" improvisation featured short, double time runs, a host of blunt phrases, and a series of staccato blasts. A trip through "God Bless The Child" was chock full of vivid melodies, all of which were tied to the song. The breathy sound of his tenor pleaded for a moment, and then a long, tumbling phrase would tail off into silence.

Though his solos weren't particularly lengthy, organist Jared Gold covered a lot of ground. He took his time at the onset of "Can't Buy Me Love," speaking simply, leaving open space, and working variations of a single notion. Gold announced a change in emphasis by holding one chord for a few bars, briefly made the keyboard sound like an electric typewriter, and offered a dazzling chordal sequence in response to Stryker's and Riley's repeated riff. A "One For Reedus" solo featured a heavy, thickset sound on the instrument. Long, unruly lines gradually evolved into concise, orderly statements. On numerous occasions during the set, Gold's comping resembled brief dialogues with the guitar and tenor sax, as he possessed an uncanny sense of when to assert himself and when to lay out.

Without abandoning the pleasure principle that kept him close to the audience, there was a gritty determination inherent in Stryker's guitar work. During his "One For Reedus" and "That's The Way Of The World" solos, short groups of notes rang out, and he paused to let each segment sink in. He made "Impressions" more palatable by alluding to the melody, varying the length of single note phrases, and artfully manipulating one phrase in a number of ways without wearing out its welcome. His rubato introduction to "God Bless The Child" honored the promise to "play something pretty," yet he laced the melody with sparkling, bebop oriented runs.

A medium tempo shuffle take on "Billie Jean" made for an ideal set closer. After energetic solos by guest trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, Stryker, Riley, and Gold, the band came together for a slamming shout chorus and an equally wired treatment of the melody. After bringing the group down to a low boil, Stryker restated the melody while the horns riffed behind him. It was a very satisfying way to end an exhilarating hour-long performance.

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