CD review

Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band – “Blue Soul”

Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band – Blue Soul
(Strikezone Records 8820.CD Review by Frank Griffith)

Guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist and composer/arranger Bob Mintzer team up with the WDR Big Band from Cologne to produce Blue Soul. The chemistry and excitement generated by the combination of these powerful protagonists is spellbinding, and provides a demonstration of the state of the art of big band jazz today.

Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Stryker migrated to NYC in 1980 and has played and recorded with Jack McDuff, Steve Slagle, Stanley Turrentine, Don Braden, Vanessa Rubin, Trio Mundo and countless other leading lights of the music. He has released thirty CDs of his own which exhibit of a rich pedigree of experience to feed into this latest offering.

Blue Soul is Stryker’s second big band CD, the initial one entitled Nomad (1994) with the Bill Warfield Big Band on the Steeplechase label.

The repertoire here is healthily varied, with three compositions by Stryker himself, two Marvin Gaye classics (Trouble Man and What’s Goin On) along with Prince’s When Doves Cry and Jimmy Webb’s 1960s iconic anthem, Wichita Lineman. Stryker’s former employer Stanley Turrentine is represented with Stan’s Shuffle and the set also includes a chart often performed by youth bands receiving an exemplary performance, Bob Mintzer’s Aha .

Stryker’s big, round and blues inflected sound, coupled with a driving rhythmic fluidity shines remarkably. His guitar fully accepts the challenge and prevails- holding up his end in the dynamics with the mighty WDR band. He also brings out a grittiness and ferocity of rhythmic power in this world-leading ensemble.

Bob Mintzer, Principal Conductor of the WDR Big Band, rises to the occasion with aplomb with his rhythmically dancing and characterful arrangements. In addition, his tenor sax makes a couple of cameos including his swaggering, blues-drenched solo on Stryker’s tune, Blues Strut. Alto saxophonists Karolina Strassmayer and Johan Hörlén also add impressive improvisations as does trombonist Andy Hunter. The rhythmic battery of Louisville-born bassist John Goldsby and drummer Hans Dekker comfortably guide and inspire the band heroically throughout the proceedings.

There is something for everybody on this bold and brilliant masterpiece of big band jazz from these leading exponents of the music. One hopes that when live music rises again that a tour of this CD will emerge. It will be well worth waiting for.

Blue Soul is available from Dave Stryker’s Bandcamp site

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