Album review

Dave Stryker – ‘Baker’s Circle’

Dave Stryker – Baker’s Circle

(Strikezone Records 8821. Album review by Peter Vacher)

In this febrile world of stylistic experimentation and performance uncertainty, there’s something eminently reassuring about the US guitarist Dave Stryker and his continuing commitment to down-the-line combo jazz. Now 64, Omaha-born Stryker worked first in organ groups with the likes of Jack McDuff and travelled with tenorist Stanley Turrentine before striking out on his own. He’s been in New York since 1980, teaches and tours, but never here, but more to the point, has continued to record and to issue ‘name’ CDs like this one, usually combining his guitar with a lead front-liner, often supported by organ and drums. Stryker, it seems to me, is in the enviable position of liking what he knows and knowing what he likes. What’s more, he’s good at it. And who’s to say he’s wrong when he consistently hits the kind of creative groove that pertains here.

Aside from his constant companions, the brilliant and very lively organist Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter, Stryker includes dry-as-dust tenorist Walter Smith III to complete the quartet on this, his thirtieth album as leader. Not for Smith the broad-toned funkiness or the heavy sound of some of Stryker’s earlier collaborators, more a case of a terseness of phrase and lightness of touch that meshes well with Stryker’s Wes-cum-Grant Green guitar facility. With a ten-track selection, combining originals by the leader or Gold with pop-crossovers like Leon Russell’s ‘Superstar’, there’s plenty here to please.

Take ‘Tough’, Stryker’s opener, Gold’s heavy chords launching the quartet into an intricate harmonised line that’s immediately engaging, Hunter breaking up the beat, as Stryker solos, building well with a bluesy edge, ahead of the theme and Smith’s probing, episodic variations, before Gold returns and Hunter clatters as the perky melody reappears. Much the same goes for ‘El Camino’, Smith pushing harder, Stryker never short of ideas.

With nothing routine, and plenty happening track by track, as Stryker turns in a series of nicely-shaped originals (viz the mesmeric ‘Dreamsong) and they play a rather lovely version of Cole Porter’s ‘Everything I Love’, there’s enough here for everyone to get their teeth into.

Recorded pre-lockdown in January 2019 but released now, Stryker says ‘We hope this music helps to put some positivity out into the world.’ Works for me.

LINK: Dave Stryker’s website

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