Strike Up the Band
For fans accustomed to Stryker’s guitar work with alto saxophonist Steve Slagle, this 2003 quartet session with pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Andy McKee and drummer Billy Hart may prove slightly more introspective. A fine album, it catches Stryker building long, cliché-free solos. There are cross-rhythms and percussive phrases where he digs in and cooks, as well as contemplative ruminations. Hart’s chatter and beat are clearly inspiring to all. The title track sets a high artistic standard for the album, with everyone in a thoughtful frame of mind. Davis’ “The Message,” a slow, minor-key waltz, follows, and then comes Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin,” with Davis delivering some fleet, agile solo lines before Hart takes a long, listenable solo. Further in the program, Stryker’s quizzical “What Is This” evokes guitarist Jim Hall’s laidback, choice-note approach. Later, another Stryker original, “Blues Strut,” reminds us of what a seasoned blues player he is. This album affirms that the best jazz musicians can take traditional forms (such as the 80-year-old Gershwin-penned title tune and Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” another standard heard here) and make them speak to today’s audience.