Guitarist Dave Stryker
is one of the most prolific talents in jazz, with almost two dozen releases as a leader, and stints with artists including Stanley Turrentine
and Jack McDuff
. His unique style has garnered him a number of prestigious awards. No less productive is Stryker's long-time co-leader, saxophonist Steve Slagle
, who has led his own bands for twenty years and played with a highly impressive roster including Carla Bley
, Steve Kuhn
and Joe Lovano
. Having worked together for the past decade, The Stryker/Slagle Band incorporates collective experience and talent in Keeper
, a fine and diverse collection of originals.
Stryker's title track opens the set with a brisk, R&B feel and an infectious hook. Slagle's fluid work is complimented by Stryker's structured but free-flowing guitartypically hovering closer to the lower registerwhile drummer Thelonious Monk
's "Ruby My Dear," giving it a soulful reading that showcases Slagle's liquid textures and Stryker's complimentary mix of chord melodies and crystalline notes.
Virtuoso bassist Jay Anderson
, another long-time collaborator, comes front and center as he anchors "Bryce's Peace," a poignant acknowledgment of Stryker's late father, whose artwork decorates the CD's cover. The slow tempo ballad segues nicely into "Blue State," which is, appropriately, the most blues flavored track on Keeper
and a fine platform for Slagle's soulful alto and Stryker's somewhat gospel-influenced playing, reminiscent of Otis Rush
. Slagle then switches to soprano for the first time on "Gold Dust," an appealing composition that also features Stryker on nylon string guitar. Both offer deceptively complex solos, disguised by the piece's overall tranquil atmosphere. Keeper
closes with Slagle's Latin-influenced "Good 4 U," adding yet another stylistic dimension to the collection and allowing Slagle to reach back to his earlier work with Machito
and Ray Barretto
. The piece also provides a solo opportunity for Lewis, who gets to show his innovative and rhythmic style at various points throughout the song. Keeper
is the fifth collection from The Stryker/Slagle Band; a multi-talented group that is not only resilient, but shows, with each successive release, that it is not content to rest on its creative laurels. Stryker and Slagle continue to grow musicallyboth independently and as collaboratorsand have a knack for surrounding themselves with world-class rhythm sections that play to their strengths while contributing to the group's overall energy.