Dave Stryker’s participation in the lovely online High Note Records tribute to Pat Martino last March gives you an idea of his preferences. Born and raised in Omaha, the long-time New Yorker and dedicated straightahead guitarist came of age through the bands of legends Brother Jack McDuff and Stanley Turrentine and has built an imposing resumé and song book. Stryker’s latest, Baker’s Circle, recorded with his regular organ combo, again includes numerous hip original tunes.
At times the remarkably crisp band evokes the vibe of the erstwhile Larry Young units (Tough) and The second Miles Davis quintet featuring Tony Williams (Rush Hour, penned by organist Jared Gold).
Two catchy Latin-tinged tunes (El Camino, Baker’s Circle, the latter written as an homage to Stryker’s mentor Dave Baker) contrast with mid-tempo shuffle groove (Trouble #2, Stanley Turrentine’s variation on Fever) and sweeping slow groove (Dreamsong). Covers of Delaney & Bonnie’s Superstar and Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues pale in comparison to this top-notch material, regardless of surprise factor and excellent solos.
Soft as silk, round but punchy, Stryker’s sound instantly catches the ear. His playing is elegant but all the same capable of bringing blues-drenched drama, particularly during Dreamsong, which besides Stryker features the sorrowful weeps and moans of Walter Smith III, who throughout Baker’s Circle develops solos from salacious staccato patterns. Finally, the dynamic organist Jared Gold works towards the coda like a snooker player that has the ball on a string during a century break. That sole “wrong” note takes nothing away from Gold’s superb performance, similar to the kick that fails to derail a solid 123 on the BBC.
On the contrary, not having succumbed to Pro Tools polish is very much to the credit of spontaneous Stryker & Co, whose Baker’s Circle lives up to expectations and is the opposite of a Lucky Stryke.
Tough; El Camino; Dreamsong; Everything I Love; Rush Hour; Superstar; Baker’s Circle; Inner City Blues; Love Dance; Trouble (No.2) (57.33)
Stryker (g); Walter Smith III (ts); Jared Gold (org); McClenty Hunter (d); Mayra Casalas (pc). Paramus, New Jersey, 2019.
Strikezone Records 8821