“Wichita Lineman,” written in 1968 by Jimmy Webb and made famous that same year by Glen Campbell, has become a bona fide jazz standard in recent years, with gorgeous renditions by Cassandra Wilson, John Hollenbeck and Pete Robbins, to name a few. Now comes Dave Stryker, who turns the haunting ballad into a slow groover. The transformation captures perfectly the ethos of Stryker’s new album, Eight Track, a celebration of music from the golden era of AM radio. As Stryker tells it in the liner notes, these 11 songs were some of his favorites back when he was tooling around in a 1969 GMC van, popping eight-track tapes in and out of the console.
The resulting album is a marriage of supreme musicianship and cotton-candy nostalgia. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris, organist Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter join the veteran guitarist, and they turn 11 of your favorite old hits into solid soul-jazz gold. Hunter’s churning backbeat and Gold’s high-pressure organ propel the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around.” Harris and Stryker trade off taking the reins of “Wichita Lineman” with delicate lines; on a fast, swinging version of the Fifth Dimension’s “Aquarius” (featuring dazzling stick work by Hunter), they play the chorus in unison before Stryker turns in a daring but classy solo. In fact, that’s the guiding principle here: grooving with elegance, whether it’s the gentle sway of the Association’s “Never My Love,” their tender take of Bread’s “Make It With You” or the unlikely jazzification of Pink Floyd’s “Money.” Forget those Time-Life collectors’ editions sold on late-night infomercials. Buy this.