Although they've been playing gigs together for the past twenty years, guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist Steve Slagle didn't make it official until just a few seasons ago for their first joint venture. Stryker and Slagle are also members of Trio Mundo, which is currently recording on the same label. This latest effort, recorded earlier this year at New York's Jazz Standard, adds bassist Ed Howard and the venerable drummer Victor Lewis. The audience is clearly an eager recipient of this lively and energetic set.
Both of the leaders have extensive recording histories, with Stryker logging in almost twenty dates as a leader, many on the Steeplechase label. Stryker's ability to play in several sub-genres effectively is well documented by ventures in straight-ahead, blues-jazz, and edgy "downtown" jazz. Slagle has close to ten dates of his own, many also on Steeplechase.
Steve Slagle assumes a role as the primary voice of the group with a soulful alto (and occasional soprano) sax. His style is very fast, with jagged bebop lines played soulfully in the manner of someone like Eric Kloss from the latter half of the 1960s. Although I've heard Dave Stryker do otherwise, he largely plays a mainstream role here, and it is by no means secondary. The guitarist is all chops as he spins out fleet runs and fills, providing exciting chording for Slagle or playing along in unison with him. Some of Stryker's chording is oddly reminiscent of the B-3 sound (making this an effective allusion to an organ-sax quartet). Perhaps that is not so surprising, since Stryker got his first break in Jack McDuff's combo.
The tunes are almost entirely originals performed with great amounts of heat. Slagle slows down for a tender "I Loves You Porgy" and gets in a bossa touch on soprano sax for "Baba Marta," with some delicious Stryker solos. "Muddy Waters," taken at mid-tempo, is blues-based. Bassist Ed Howard gets the nod on "The Chaser" and opens up "Passing Giant," dedicated to Elvin Jones, with master drummer Victor Lewis cooking up a storm.
Mozone, Boogaloo 7, Doubleblue, I Loves You Porgy, The Great Divide, Baba Marta, Muddy Waters, The Chaser, Passing Giant.
Dave Stryker, guitar; Steve Slagle, alto and soprano sax; Ed Howard, bass; Victor Lewis,
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