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Dave Stryker is a strong guitarist with an excellent back-catalog of credits to his name. While Strike Up The Band doesn't show off his full capabilities in their best light, it makes for a listenable jaunt, and a clear reminder that musicians on Stryker's level can seek out more demanding material.
The album has a definite polish: Nils Winther's production is of a very high quality, and each of the four musicians plays with a distinctive and clear sound, too. So at root, the disappointment of the album is in its material. There are no bad songs here, to be sure; but neither are there any challenges, for the listener or for the musicians. Half the tracks are constructed over the same essential textures and tempos. Although the title track is indeed different from Gershwin's original envisioning, it burns with a high energy (thanks largely to a percussive rising line on the bass) that never resolves into anything. As a result, it's hard to tell what the effect of the arrangement is supposed to be: it feels tense and a little empty at once.
Pianist Xavier Davis has a conventional style, but he relies principally on the adapted language of minor pentatonic harmony first popularized by McCoy Tyner. It's a great, full sound, but when used equally on "Airegin," "Strike Up The Band" and "Saints and Sinners," it loses some of its poignancy.
There are definitely highpoints, though. "What Is This?" makes for a quirky play on "What Is This Thing Called Love?" And "I Love You," after an urbane bass riff under the intro and melody, features an intelligent guitar solo, though not Stryker's most dynamic. Still, Stryker and his band mates are capable of more than they attempt with this outing.
Track Listing: Strike Up The Band; The Message; Airegin; I Love You; What Is This?; Peace Song; Blues Strut; Saints and Sinners.
Personnel: Dave Stryker: guitar; Andy McKee: bass; Xavier Davis: piano; Billy Hart: drums.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.