The Dave Stryker Trio w/ Bob Mintzer
At this point you surely know what you’re getting with the soul-jazz of Dave Stryker’s Trio with the leader on guitar, the redoubtable Jared Gold on organ and groove maestro McClenty Hunter on drums. Yet, this session, Groove Street, adds the legendary tenor saxophonist of Yellowjackets fame and current director of the WDR Big Band, Bob Mintzer, evoking the great soul-jazz from the ‘60s heard on Blue Note albums from Jimmy Smith, Grant Green, Stanley Turrentine, and others. Yet, this is far more than just a throwback as six of the nine tracks are originals composed by band members. Stryker fans will recall that Mintzer arranged and conducted Stryker’s music for Blue Soul with the WDR Big Band, one of 2020’s best large ensemble recordings. Stryker and Mintzer are longtime friends who had played together sporadically on tours but had never played these nine compositions until now, with a recording date in the summer of 2023 following a week’s stint as a quartet at NYC’s Birdland. Not surprisingly, most of this new material was captured in one take.
Stryker’s classic organ shuffle title track kicks it off with Mintzer, Stryker, and Gold locked in unison before the guitarist takes the first rollicking turn, followed by a gutty Mintzer, and a soaring Gold with McClenty keeping all in the pocket. Mintzer’s smoothly flowing “Overlap” brings the boil down to a simmer as the group shows their lyrical chops before they catch fire on the unrelenting combustible Stryker’s “Summit,” which features a concise, stirring turn from Hunter on his kit. In a drastic change of pace they render Wayne Shorter’s tender ballad, “Infant Eyes” exquisitely with particular props to Mintzer and Gold for their performances on this one.
Gold’s sole contribution to the repertoire is “Soulstice,” a medium tempo groover that gives all three of the melody instruments ample opportunity to improvise over a laid-back theme. Yet, Gold’s most adventurous moments are arguably on the Eddie Harris classic “Cold Duck Time.” Most will recall the Harris-Les McCann version from the landmark Swiss Movement album, yet this quartet delivers their own funky, bluesy version that thrives on the merits of its three soloists, especially Stryker and Gold.
Stryker’s “Code Blue” plays to angular, intricate rhythm features one of the guitarist’s stronger solos while the group gets into a seductively swinging mode on Harry Warren’s “The More I See You.” The set closes, practically in bookend fashion, with Mintzer’s aptly titled “Straight Ahead,” a vehicle for all band members to bring their respective incandescent best once again with an especially riveting dialogue between Stryker and Gold before the organist launches into his own orbit. Hunter stirs it up on the eights before the band exits rather abruptly.
Take a stroll down Groove Street and you’ll undoubtedly notice a bounce in your step.
- Jim Hynes
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