WBGO Radar

Dave Stryker: "Messin With Mister T"

guitarist dave stryker

I first heard Dave Stryker when I emceed a jazz cruise.  He was playing guitar with the great saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, and was playing classic grooves.

That's the "Mister T" celebrated on Dave's new disc, which will soon be one of the most-played of 2015. Stryker has lined up a who's who of today's saxophones to honor his mentor.

Dave came to New York in 1980.  Back then, before all the extraordinary jazz schools came along, a young musician learned the craft like a medieval artisan: master teaches apprentice.  Apprentice becomes master, then teacher.  

Stryker learned how to play bluesfully, soulfully, always melodically and always in the pocket, from two of the greatest masters. He played two years, 84 to 85, on the road and uptown regularly at Dude¹s Lounge, with Hammond B-3 legend Jack McDuff.  Stanley Turrentine used to sit in, and from 86 to 95, Stryker played in the quintet of Mister T.

Through the years since then, he¹s recorded 25 albums as a leader himself,  with a variety of imaginative and differently swinging groups. His edgy quartet with saxophonist Steve Slagle.  His world beat Trio Mundo.  His bluesy little big band Blue to the Bone.  Most often in recent years with an organ trio.  

I booked all of the distinctive above at the Jazz on the Mountain festival at Mohonk, and again this year Stryker came back with his trio-plus: Jared Gold on the organ and McClenty Hunter on the drums, plus the vibes of Steve Nelson.  

He recorded last year, with Gold, Hunter, and Stefon Harris on the vibes, an album that Gary and Rhonda and I agreed was one of the best albums of 2014.  Eight Track celebrates classic soul and pop songs we all remember from the 60s to 80s: "Superfly," Wichita Lineman," "The Age of Aquarius," Stevie's "Superwoman..."

Each of the ten tracks on "Messin' with Mister T" comes from Turrentine¹s bandbook, and features a different saxophonist, the cream of the crop.

Each of these players with Stryker's trio recreates Turrentine’s hits from refreshing angles.   The mellowness of "Don't Mess with Mister T" with Don Braden.  The sideways swing of "Impressions" with Chris Potter.  The bouncing funk of "Gibraltar" with Bob Mintzer.  An almost surreal "Sugar" with Javon Jackson.  

Stryker spotlights two up-and-comers, Mike Lee and Tivon Pennicott.  He's also joined by two long-time friends, Eric Alexander and Steve Slagle, plus two of Turrentine¹s fellow masters - Houston Person and Jimmy Heath, on a gorgeous "In a Sentimental Mood."  

One personal twist for me is that, as the apprentice is now a master himself, Dave is the new guitar chair at America’s biggest music school - and my alma mater - Indiana University.    

- Michael Bourne, host of WBGO's Afternoon Jazz and Blues Hour  

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