Thursday, June 18, 2020

"Blue Soul" : Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band

Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band Blue Soul  Strikezone 8820

If you are a fan of dynamic music played by an inspired guitarist/composer, a masterful saxophonist/arranger and a formidable European Big Band that just really brings it to the table, then you will love Dave Stryker’s latest Blue Soul

Dave Stryker is one of the leading guitarists on the scene with a distinctive guitar sound that meshes the jazz tradition of Wes Montgomery and the Funk and Soul of Grant Green. The man can play and as a ubiquitous producer he is often recording with his own trio of stalwart bandmates, Jared Gold on organ and McClenty Hunter on drums, and recently included Steve Nelson or Stefon Harris on vibes and Mayra Casales on percussion.

This most recent release comes as a fresh breath of air in these stressful times, offering spirit, joy, great arrangements, and top-notch talent on this swinging gem. Stryker and saxophone/arranger Bob Mintzer, of the Yellowjackets' fame, has come together with the WDR Big Band and created a most enjoyable jaunt through some fabulous music. The nine songs are well chosen and include “What’s Going On” and “Trouble Man,” from the Marvin Gaye repertoire, Jimmy Webb’s prized “Wichita Lineman,” Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Stanley Turrentine’s “Stan’s Shuffle” all worth the price of admission. Mintzer adds his own composition “Aha,” and Stryker includes his compositions “Came to Believe,” the funky “Blues Strut,” and one of my favorites “Shadowboxing.” 

The music pulses and explodes and there are great solo performances by Stryker on guitar throughout, Mintzer on saxophone wails impressively on “Aha,” “Blues Strut,” and “Stan’s Strut” and there are notable contributions from organist Billy Test, especially on “Trouble Man”  and "Blues Strut."  Altoists Karolina Strassmeyer and Johan Horlen and tenorist Paul Heller all add featured solos. Trombonist Andy Hunter shines on “Wichita Lineman” and drummer Hans Dekker, besides masterfully anchoring this band, is given some space to creatively spice up Stryker’s “Shadowboxing” at the coda. The WDR Big Band hails from Cologne in Germany and was formed in 1946. I have heard this group fronted by some of the best musicians in jazz and they always deliver with professionalism and vigor.

Dave Stryker has been on a creative roll with his successful series of Eight Track recordings-simply tapping some of Soul, Pop and Rock music ’s best era- reimangined these songs into some modern compositions that retain the original’s appeal. Blue Soul, now utilizing the expanded aural canvas that a big band like the WDR Big Band provides, under Mintzer and Stryker with Jarred Gold’s deft arrangements, can be simply too good to miss.  Grab this one and have a blast.