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Dave Stryker Quartet At Middle C Jazz

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Dave Stryker Quartet
Middle C Jazz
Charlotte, NC
February 14, 2020

Guitarist Dave Stryker began by introducing his band mates: tenor saxophonist Stephen Riley, organist Jared Gold (a constant companion for several years) and drummer Jeremy "Bean" Clemons. Much of the music would come from the recent album Eight Track III (Strikezone Records, 2019). Stryker joked that some audience members looked too young to know what an eight-track is (for an explanation, see the interview Dave Stryker: Guitars, Organs & Eight-Tracks).

The set began with a funky version of Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up." The Temptations' "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" followed. As on the recording, it proved an especially exciting blowing vehicle, with its anthemic bass line and steady drum rhythm. There was notable interaction between Stryker and ebullient drummer Clemons (Stryker later joked that he had been encouraging Clemons to come out of his shell). He also observed that this was their first time playing together, a fact that came as a complete surprise given how tight the band sounded.

Introducing the next tune, Styker spoke of his admiration for Stevie Wonder's songwriting, describing him as one of the greatest. Wonder is the only songwriter represented on all three of the Eight Track albums. Before launching into "Too High" Stryker observed that the title had nothing to do with this band. The performance was notable for an energetic drum solo, accompanied by rhythmic riffs from the rest of the band. It being Valentine's Day, the next song was introduced as something appropriate for the day (he also mentioned sending his wife an Instagram message before coming onstage, so he was covered). "My Funny Valentine" was played as a bossa, a nice alternative to the traditional ballad treatment.

Stryker humorously described Cole Porter as "one of the greats of the Eight Track era" before launching into another song appropriate to the occasion, "Everything I Love." Gold incorporated a clever quote from Jerome Kern's "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" during his organ solo, and the band had a section trading first fours, then twos. After mentioning that CDs make wonderful Valentine's Day gifts, they played Roy Ayers' "Everybody Loves The Sunshine," which began with a masterful unaccompanied, rubato organ solo before locking into a funk groove. Styker joked about trying to bring a Hammond B-3 organ and Leslie speaker on an airplane, commenting that Gold's portable organ fit in the overhead compartment.

Riley's saxophone was featured on the standard "Everything Happens To Me." After a brief onstage discussion ("talk among yourselves," Stryker jokingly advised the audience) it began as a ballad, moving into up-tempo. Riley had the spotlight during his soulful rendition of the tune, but the whole band shone by the end. Asking if everyone in the full house had a good time, Stryker counted off the funky set closer. By the end he had the audience clapping along. A good time was indeed had by all, band and audience alike. Stryker is an exciting player, with a blues feeling that informs everything, even the standards. And he's a charming host as well.

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