Featuring Gary Foster, this straight-ahead session swings with the timeless tradition of a Kansas City 7, but with the orchestrated sound of a big band or large orchestra. There have been other small jazz groups named Kansas City 7, but Kerry Strayer’s septet captures all the essentials and wraps them all up in one harmonious package. As it moves slowly and gracefully through Alan Broadbent’s “Don’t Ask Why,” for example, the septet combines trumpet, trombone, baritone saxophone and featured alto sax timbres together for a rich mixture. Lush and pretty, their blend brings out the beauty of the piece. Piano, bass and drums give it the final touch.
Baritone saxophonist Kerry Strayer studied with Gary Foster, hence the album’s title. Foster’s instrumental voices color the album with a majestic lead. The tradition of Kansas City swing moves straight-ahead into the modern mainstream. Swinging freely, these seven jazz artists improvise over established themes and have fun doing it.
Foster’s alto sax, clarinet, flute, and tenor provide strong leads. Strayer’s baritone, Earlie Braggs’ trombone, and Barry Springer’s trumpet follow suit with expressive forays. The arrangements include solos from the piano trio as well as fours. Strayer’s baritone carries an unusual lightness. Like Gerry Mulligan, he swings lyrically and leaves behind any thoughts of the instrument being large and bulky. In his hands, the deep-voiced instrument serves the same purpose as that of his mentor. Together, Strayer and Foster lead with featured instrumental voices that reflect the best in straight-ahead jazz.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.