Eight Track III
We’ve not only covered composer/guitarist Dave Stryker on these pages before but also projects from his working trio of drummer McClenty Hunter and organist Jared Gold as leaders. That formidable trio is augmented here by stellar vibraphonist Stefon Harris and, on four of the nine selections, percussionist Mayra Casales. As the title implies, these are covers of tunes from that vintage eight track era, the third in the series. The first of these in 2013 was done with the working trio. The second iteration came in 2-16 with vibraphonist Steve Nelson. And, at the urging of Harris, we now have the third, completing the trilogy.
This time out, Stryker continues to enjoy the challenges of putting his own stamp on these mostly ‘70s classics, tackling Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” the Temptations “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic” and two by Stevie Wonder: “Too High” and “Joy Inside My Tears.” Added to the mix are surprising versions of syrupy pop tunes – The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” and Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s In Love With You,” a mega hit for Dionne Warwick. Two other soul tunes make up the mix – Stefon Harris leading on Roy Ayer’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” and Marvin Gaye’s “After the Dance.”
If you’ve heard Stryker before, you know that he’s on the bluesy side of jazz guitarists and in true organ trio fashion, a modern day force in essentially reviving that glorious soul jazz era from 1958-1962. They take that approach to these classics, which could easily be rendered by the working trio but the additions of Harris especially, and Casales too, add glowing textures to the sound. It swings, and the main players get plenty of opportunities to stretch out in these arrangements crafted by Stryker and Gold. The two pop tunes do have nice melodies but can’t carry the same energy as tunes from Mayfield, the Temptations and Stevie Wonder. That’s the only quibble and it’s a minor one. Soul music fans, whether they like jazz or not, should gravitate toward this. That’s the intent. Stryker and company have made an eminently accessible album.
- Jim Hynes