At this time last year the sizzling straight-jazz band headed up by guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist/flautist Steve Slagle
had a record out that we were making hay over, entitled
The boys are back already with another batch of mostly original tunes called The Scene. And like before, they brought in that titan
of the tenor
to sit in for several tracks.
Hey it worked so well the last time, so why not do it again?
For The Scene, released on October 14, the solid and ever-busy Jay Anderson is retained on bass, but they did mess with the lineup
at the drum chair, where the magnificent Billy Hart is replaced by the equally magnificent Victor Lewis.
Recorded in a single day at Anderson's Mountain Rest Studio in upstate New York, the boys brought big city urgency to a relaxed setting.
Many of these new tunes had already been tested in front of live audiences and combined with the high caliber of each musician to a man,
there wasn't going to be any need to dilly-dally around. They could get right down to business, and that's just what they did.
The title cut "The Scene" proves that Stryker didn't just learn the ins and outs of playing soul jazz from gigging with Jack McDuff
and Stanley Turrentine, he mastered the art of composing songs in that vein, too. Even though this song would work great with an organ,
Stryker's skillful comping makes you not miss it, either.
"Kindred Spirits" is this album's nod to Metheny-esque Americana folk that Stryker likes to throw in for a pleasant change-up.
Stryker dubs an electric guitar on top his acoustic rhythm for some lead work and gives his most inspired solo of the album. Slagle
does manage not to be overshadowed when his turn comes, though.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Fingers In The Wind" is the lone cover, a lesser-known composition from his classic The Inflated Tear album.
It's just Slagle on a very lyrical flute backed only by Stryker's soft rhythm colorings. The flawless execution is more remarkable given
that this track was cut on the fly in a single take.
Slagle's "Hopewell's Last," a paean to his late brother Stuart, again pairs up the sopranoist with the famous tenorist in a bluesy
dirge that's a close cousin to Thelonius Monk's "Pannonica." Slagle's solo is appropriately mournful while Lovano goes the more meditative
The next track "Brighter Days," counters with a snappy but loose tempo, and is another soulful burner from Stryker. Lovano gets plenty
of room to weave some thoughtful lines and he takes advantage of it.
Other highlights include the opener "Skee" with its memorable horn-led theme and hot solos from Slagle, Lovano and Stryker; the breezy
"Six Four Teo," and the slippery blowing session that is "Strikology."
Just as with Latest Outlook, the Stryker-Slagle Band doesn't seek to stake out new ground in jazz, but instead hits the mark with
well-written, original tunes and maximal musicianship. The Stryker-Slagle Band revisits the well traversed post-bop ground with the
enthusiasm and acumen that makes it sound fun and fresh to listen to. They once again show that honoring a proud tradition is meant
to be a labor of love not some academic exercise.
The Stryker/Slagle Band is Dave Stryker (guitar) and Steve Slagle (alto and soprano sax, flute). These two men came together because
of a mutual respect for music and the many of the people that have come and gone over the years before them so they can be some of the
privileged few to create great music in their image and memory.
Different people, places and things inspire us all and music holds a special kind of goodwill that we all seem to understand when we listen,
particularly when the performing musicians let you know that some of that mojo is part of the entire picture on a project.
The Scene is a very consistent recording and all instrumental. It is filled with the sounds of contemporary jazz that is suitable for any music
fan, even those that may not be a jazz listener; there are plentiful instances of fine musicianship on the recording to appreciate. In addition,
some special guests add their share to the mix and overall quality of this project. Joe Lovano (tenor sax on tracks 1, 3, 6, 7) a name everyone
knows that is familiar with jazz, is featured prominently and his touch and presence makes a difference in the way this duo deliver their music.
Clearly, adding someone of Lovano’s pure musicality to the mix is going to bring everyone to the next level and that is exactly what happens here.
In addition, Jay Anderson (bass) and Victor Lewis (drums) step in to add their expertise and chops to round out this fine session.
Nine tracks make up this collective musical brilliance filled with varying degrees of tempos and textures. The music takes you on a textbook
journey of the jazz palette with grace and precision, literally on every track. Besides the contemporary foundation from which the trio works
you also get a taste of fusion, smooth ballads, and some stinging and well place guitar leads from Stryker’s six-string, not to mention some of
sweetest sax playing from Slagle and Lovano.
Perhaps the most gratifying thing about listening to this music is the outright simplicity of presentation, keeping in mind that jazz is complex
in comparison to other genres. This is a purposefully adventure down the multi-hued roads of jazz and it fits into one nice slice of audible
aptness. The production value is outstanding and the sound is crisp and clear with the bottom end holding up nicely without interfering with the
importance of each instrument.
This is a very good session from men with their heart in the right place, now that is what it is all about…and exactly why this recording works
so well. If you are looking for some nice jazz that will be appropriate for any setting or mood, this is your CD.
Fresh from their critically acclaimed 2007 CD "Latest Outlook," guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist Steve Slagle release their third
album on the ZOHO label with The Scene clearly one of the finer sessions of contemporary jazz you will hear. This recording in many ways
eclipses their previous effort, pays tribute to musicians who are all in a sense, "brothers on the scene," as Slagle puts it. Much of the
music is dedicated to those who have passed on like Slagle’s "Hopewell’s Last," a light cushy ballad dedicated to his late brother, Stuart
The Stryker/Slagle Band is a quartet that also features Jay Anderson on the bass and Victor Lewis manning the drums. As on the previous
recording of "Latest Outlook," saxophonist extraordinaire Joe Lovano once again graces this album as special guest lending his stylish
tenor sax voice on the opening "Skee," "Six Four Teo," "Hopewell’s Last" and "Brighter Days."
Lovano and Slagle come out swinging on the opening track providing a sample of the expanded saxophone sound on this disc. Stryker’s
title piece is an easy going number where the guitarist is showcased on a marvelous solo which is complimented by following solo jousts
from Slagle and Anderson on bass.
Stryker’s arrangements of "Six Four Teo" and "Brighter Days" result in two scorching numbers with plenty of the hard bop sound that
make these two pieces stand out. The session ends with a soft duet featuring Stryker’s light finger play on guitar and Slagle performing
on the flute on "Fingers In The Wind," and closes with the burning finale of "Strikology."
LIVE Review Jazz Improv NY October 2008 By Gary Heimbauer
Saxophonist Steve Slagle and guitarist Dave Stryker have been working together for over 20 years. This is one of the longest established
partnerships around, and the results are not something that can be forged. Joining them on the album are Jay Anderson on bass, and Victor
Lewis on drums—both of whom have been with them on and off since the beginning. Along with special guest saxophonist Joe Lovano, this group
of stellar musicians creates one very fine hour of contemporary jazz. There is an underlying feeling of intimacy and empathy that
pervades the entire album. It is of no surprise, being the band spent a year playing this material before recording it. In an age where
maximizing profits is the highest priority, a tour usually comes after the recording, resulting in a boring CD. Luckily, Zoho Records
was on the side of the listener in this instance. The Scene is the band’s fourth CD.
The first tune, entitled "Skee", is definitely not
one you will have forgotten about by the end of the album. The band is in full throttle from the get-go, like runners out of the gate,
but well stretched for sure. They are fierce and relaxed simultaneously. It is a Slagle original that was written for his dear friend
Dennis Irwin shortly after his passing. The players get to keep changing gears within their solos, forced to be melodic in the modal
section and sophisticated over the changes, and they end up being both throughout. Slagle opens up the solo section with such an eager
approach, having so much to say. Following him, Lovano takes the baton and decides to leave the race all together, relaxed as ever,
with a completely different approach as the band responds accordingly. Stryker takes the third round, alternating between fast and
technical, and slow and tasteful, while always rhythmically interesting as he mixes up single note lines with chords.
The second offering is the title track; Stryker’s "The Scene". The song, along with the album as a whole, came from "the idea that in spirit
we are all ‘brothers on the scene’ with this music." Slagle goes on to say in the liner notes, "Much of it is a dedication to those who have
lived this way in music all of their lives." The melody has some tricky intervals but it manages to outline a very interesting set of changes.
Stryker overdubs himself on this track for the head. His solo is very long-winded as he never stops to breath, but unlike others with this habit,
he is never repetitive, and always melodic.
Slagle’s "Six Four Teo" is exactly that—a song written in 6/4. Lovano is so unmistakable on this tune — one of the few players that truly has
his own voice. Slagle has a very edgy and aggressive delivery with a tone reminiscent of Sonny Rollins (if he were to play alto).
For Slagle’s ballad "Hopewell’s Last", Joe and Steve blend beautifully on the head, playing an octave apart. Stryker’s "Brighter Days" is a
feel good tune. It is in a moderate tempo and swings throughout. Victor Lewis is a very subtle player who speaks volumes between the lines.
The finale, Stryker’s "Strikology," is the burner of the album. The head is played together by Slagle and Stryker and they aren’t quite in sync.
It is somewhat messy, but this may be intentional on Slagle’s part. Stryker has great tone, clear but warm and thick—often the two don’t come
in one package. Lewis takes a very exciting solo before returning to the head.
What is most exciting about this band is that they have such a great rapport, while each individual comes from a different place. Although the
album is full of originals, it is handled by the musicians with the same ease that they would feel with a set of standards. This is one of the
best working bands in jazz, and this listener will surely be at their next set.
With their newest release The Scene, The Stryker/Slagle Band serve up a dedication to men and
women playing their kind of music: warm, soulful jazz. Each and every track acts as an affectionate ode to personal friends and musical
heroes alike, all while demonstrating the skillful guitar playing of Dave Stryker and warm saxophone riffs of Steve Slagle. Respectful
yet upbeat, the recording shows what modern jazz can achieve in the hands of its biggest fans.
Accompanied here by tenor sax virtuoso Joe Lovano, The Scene offer something for everyone – from up-tempo urban jazz pieces to smooth,
easy ballads – presented with the effortless style and grace that fans have come to expect from Stryker and Slagle. From the opening
"Skee" to the concluding "Strikology," all musicians are on the same wonderful page, exemplifying the kind of simple beauty that only
contemporary jazz can accomplish. Certain to appeal to all types of listeners, The Scene is easy on the ears and soothing to the mind,
infused with a level of musical joy that one rarely hears in modern music. Clearly, The Stryker/Slagle Band has succeeded in creating
a whimsical ode to jazz’s unsung heroes.
A native Nebraskan, Dave Stryker has been a part of the New York City jazz scene for more than two decades, where he developed his
legendary guitar-playing skills. Saxophonist Steve Slagle was born in Los Angeles but moved to New York in 1977, having already debuted
his knack for the saxophone while playing with the Stevie Wonder Band. The Scene is their fourth release together as The Stryker/Slagle
Martin Kasdan Jr.
Guitarist Dave Stryker and his longtime associate saxophonist Steve Slagle have performed together as the Stryker/Slagle Band for many
years now. Their new release, The Scene(Zoho 200810), finds them in the groove for a program of original compositions accompanied by
bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Victor Lewis, with guest appearances on four tracks by Joe Lovano. The offerings range from the insistent
opening number "Skee" to the fast-paced and fun closing "Strikology." As powerful as Joe Lovano is, he complements rather than overshadows
the leaders. The one cover song here is a lovely duet featuring Slagle on flute and Stryker on acoustic guitar on Rahsaan Roland Kirk's
"Fingers in the Wind." You can find out more at www.zohomusic.com.
The Stryker/Slagle Band
Jan P. Dennis
(Dave Stryker- guitar; Steve Slagle - alto, soprano sax; Jay Anderson - bass; Victor Lewis - drums; plus guest Joe Lovano - tenor sax
on tracks 1, 3, 6, 7)
Post-bop—some of the hardest music to play convincingly. Yet the Stryker/Slagle Band, which has been plowing this somewhat tattered
furrow for more than a decade, makes it sound as fresh as a field of daffodils. Catchy melodies, a wide-ranging musical vocabulary,
uncanny ensemble playing, and inventive soloing characterize their approach. New member Victor Lewis, replacing Billy Hart on drums,
brings an added dimension. The drummer for Bobby Watson’s great 90s post-bop band Horizon (which this group often sounds much like,
especially on "Six Four Teo" and "Brighter Days"), Lewis is that rare combination of driving and detail-oriented, and he’s fully on his
game here. Jay Anderson, a consummate craftsman, is perfect for the bass chair, whether anchoring the bottom or taking a tasty solo near
the end of "The Sense".
The two leaders, who split writing duties down the middle, stamp the proceedings with a brightness and invention that makes the music
sparkle. Whether spinning off heartlandish outings ("Kindred Spirits"), neo-Latin numbers ("Six Four Teo"), Monk-like tunes
("Hopewell’s Last"), or straight-ahead burners ("Strikology"), they always sound fresh. The addition of Joe Lovano, a frequent
collaborator, on four tracks jacks things up another level.
Review written by Ralph A. Miriello
The Stryker/Slagle Band: Hopewell's last
On this Steve Slagle-penned ballad, the masterful sax duo of Lovano on tenor and Slagle on soprano opens this lazy, melancholy song
dedicated to Slagle's late brother Stuart. The Stryker/Slagle Band has been honing their tightly meshed "pianoless" sound for some time
now, and it shows in their flawless execution. After Slagle's sauntering, soulful solo, Dave Stryker weaves his guitar around the wistful
melody with his skillful use of octave playing. The addition of powerhouse Joe Lovano only adds another diverse and complementary element
to their signature sound. Lovano's mellifluous sax flows like water cascading over the slippery stones of a serene stream. The interaction
between the two saxes is especially compatible in the soprano/tenor format. This group merits closer attention, and Lovano adds just
another dynamic element to this stalwart band. Fine work.