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If there is one accomplishment Kerry Strayer should be proud of, it is his productivity as an arranger. He estimates that over the course of his career he has written 300 hundred charts for his bands. That indeed is impressive. Happily, it is not mere statistics. Strayer breathes life into a song with his arrangements. He knows how to stoke dialogue and to give room to a soloist who fits into the evolution of the tune.
Having musicians who know how to control a chart and then chart their own course is a plus. The septet works convincingly on both counts, resulting in music that jump-starts and kicks into high gear right from the start. “Saturday 10AM” could witness the opening of one eye and a yawn at the beginning of a weekend. Not so for Gary Foster, who wrote it. He is up and about and cheery as he collars the spark and transports it to Earlie Braggs on trombone and then to Strayer, whose baritone sax brings in a thick texture and the final panel in an enticing edifice. If this one is given more to solo craft, “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” is enriched by ensemble structure. Strayer is up front on the baritone, while a rich curtain is created by seamless unison lines from the other brass. Foster cuts in on the tenor and Braggs has his say as well, the emotive power of the soloists enhanced by the tasteful drumming of Todd Strait. There is a cavorting piece called “Gaviota” on which Foster plays flute, lithe and dancing, abetted by percussion from Gary Helm and the lissom Frank Mantooth, who adds rich hues on the piano.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.