Monday, May 31, 2010

The Stryker/Slagle Band Crafts a "Keeper"

Guitarist Dave Stryker, alto-soprano adept Steve Slagle...they are all about keeping at it. Tomorrow marks the release of their fifth album, Keeper (Panorama) and it has that fully blossomed sound inside the pocket and upside your head. Here are two players that work together in a most simpatico way. The crack rhythm section of Jay Anderson, bass, and Victor Lewis on the drums gives the band an excellent push that brings out the best in the two frontliners.

Keeper underscores that the contemporary mainstream of jazz, when done by the right people, has vivid life and that exceptional ability to attract lots of listeners. But of course not just any band does that. The Styker/Slagle band does though, for sure.

There's a deep sense of convinction in the performances on this album. Dave Stryker is flawless, exciting, immediately somehow familiar in his thoroughgoing boppish swinging without sounding like anyone's clone. And the same applies to Steve Slagle. Jay Anderson is a model for this sort of session and gets off some nice solo work too. And Victor Lewis is a drummer who has been at the heart of the scene for so many years for a reason. He makes great time seem effortless, which of course it ultimately is not at all. This is a band that comprises four fully developed artists united in the group effort.

Nine nicely turned originals by Stryker or Slagle are set off by one of Monk's most precious compositional jewels, "Ruby My Dear."

Keep in mind I have nothing to gain by liking this or any other album. As an independent, I like what I please. So when I say I like this recording very much I am not taking it to the bank but you can! Those who dig the contemporary jazz guitar will find Dave doing great work here. And regardless this is a band at the top of their powers.

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