Familiarity breeds attempt. After 17 years and 14 albums playing in other groups, Dave Stryker and Steve Slagle finally got together to lead their own band. It was about time that they did!
The success of an album is often spelt by the empathy between the players. There is no doubt that Slagle and Stryker have that bond. With Moring and Horner also tying into the relationship, the music gets a deep and satisfying groove as it moves through different stylistic terrain. Besides, their ability to write melodies that grab attention is a definite plus.
Slagle is an inventive saxophonist. He can get into the pith of emotion through dense layers and then move across an angular path without losing the spirit. “Nothin’ Wrong With It” is a case in point. Ever evolving, he takes different approaches. After resolving the opening statement and improvising on the melody, he shoos away the sway and punctuates and jabs with shorter statements to give the tune another dimension. The change sits in well, perspicacity eschewing fragmentation.
When it comes to “Child’s Play,” he builds momentum on a slight swagger before settling down and bouncing on top of the melody and then elongating the lines opening the door for Stryker. Here is a guitarist whose playing is illuminating. Snap and crackle, chunky chords and bent notes, clean lines that fall in sparkling shower, mark his adventures. Could there be quarrel with dynamics that enhance a song?
Among the other compositions, “Every Dark Street” opens on a lazy blues line. Following a coiling entrance and a slow burn from Stryker, Slagle picks up the portent, gradually upping the temperature before he converses with Stryker and brings it all down in a simmer. The band also finds its element in bebop, “Long Gone” giving these four players a vantage and take-off point, Slagle ripping rapid-fire statements, confident and focussed, Stryker injects pictures that flame color, his exchanges with Slagle the icing on the track. Always interesting, often tantalizing, this band should strike up more.
1. Nothin' Wrong With It (Stryker) - 6:05
2. Child's Play (Slagle) - 8:08
3. Every Dark Street (Stryker) - 8:20
4. Highlife (Slagle) - 7:22
5. Tudo Muda (Everything Changes) (Slagle) - 8:13
6. Hands of the Sculptress (Horner) - 7:43
7. Long Gone (Slagle) - 6:04
Dave Stryker - guitar;
Steve Slagle - alto and soprano sax;
Tim Horner - drums;
Bill Moring - bass.