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Dave Stryker: Eight Track

Jack Bowers By

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On Eight Track, New York-based guitarist Dave Stryker's quartet takes the listener back some forty years or so to a time when there actually were eight-track tape players, relics on which Stryker listened to jazz and popular tunes of the day, several of which are reanimated on this tasteful and smoothly swinging album. Some of these songs have shown remarkable staying power, and Stryker and his colleagues—organist Jared Gold, drummer McClenty Hunter, guest vibraphonist Stefon Harris—prove why that is so, enclosing each of them in a jazz-centered milieu that adds to their natural buoyancy and charm.

In such capable hands, vintage classics like "Wichita Lineman," "Aquarius," "Never My Love," "(I'd Like to) Make It with You," "Never Can Say Goodbye" and the others have arguably never sounded better; at the very least they've never swung quite as hard or, in the case of "Never My Love," been given more tender loving care. While Stryker's mellow tone and clean single-note runs lend themselves well to ballads, he can sprint with abandon when the occasion demands, while Harris is an adroit and resourceful soloist at any and all tempos, easily enhancing every number and never once striking a false note. Gold and Hunter, for their part, are paragons of purposeful support and rhythmic stamina who keep the pilot light on high while giving Stryker and Harris all the sustenance and space they need.

The studio session opens with "I'll Be Around" (not the Alec Wilder standard but another '70s theme by The Spinners) and keeps the nostalgia flowing with a medley of Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman / Superfly" before moving on to Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman," "Aquarius" (from the Broadway musical Hair), The Association's "Never My Love" and Stevie Wonder's "Superwoman." The Jackson family scored a big hit with "Make It with You," Pink Floyd with "Money." The album closes with "That's the Way of the World," an easygoing anthem by Earth, Wind and Fire.

It's good to hear these songs, which have stood the test of time, in a present-day context, especially one whose centerpiece is modern jazz. Stryker's quartet takes that concept and runs with it, injecting new life into venerable themes whose best days, some would argue, were behind them. While that opinion may carry some weight, it is clearly not the case here, as Stryker and Co. make them sparkle even more brightly than they once did on those eight-track tape players.

Track Listing: I'll Be Around; Pusherman/Superfly; Wichita Lineman; Aquarius; Never My Love; Superwoman; Never Can Say Goodbye; Make It With You; Money; That's The Way Of The World.

Personnel: Dave Stryker: guitar; Stefon Harris: vibraphone; Jared Gold: organ; McClenty Hunter: drums.

Title: Eight Track | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Strikezone Records

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