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Dave Stryker: As We Are (Strikezone)

A review of the guitarist/composer's album featuring Julian Shore, John Patitucci, Brian Blade, and a string quartet

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Dave Stryker: As We Are
The cover of As We Are by Dave Stryker

Guitarist/composer Dave Stryker possesses golden tone, urgent style, and the kind of heated technique that can blow the roof off any gig. Stryker cut his teeth with organist Jack McDuff and tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, and that grits-’n’-gravy goodness seemed to mark his music: an urban talespinner, a sharp stylist able to improve any bandstand, a storyteller in sound of the highest degree.

With As We Are, the jazz gods have alighted on the guitarist and elevated his playing, his composing, his soloing, and his music. A beautiful, bittersweet concept album, As We Are includes pianist/arranger Julian Shore, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade, who convey newfound depth and empathy to Stryker’s compositions. A shimmering string quartet—violinists Sara Caswell and Monica K. Davis, violist Bennie von Gutzeit, cellist Marika Hughes—enhances some of the finest compositions of his 30-year career.

When, after an hallucinogenic intro, Stryker lays into the poignant melody of Nick Drake’s “River Man,” my jaw dropped. The song slowly unfurls via stellar performance all around. Stryker extends that mood on “Hope,” a sprightly rhythm wrapping under strings as the guitarist spins a familiar yet new melody. The darkly effervescent “Lanes” suggests a lost Michael Brecker composition. The Brazilian-tinted “Saudade” is somehow like Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s “Where Is the Love,” strings soaring over Stryker’s magical solo like a mist. Friction arrives in “One Thing at a Time,” the pensive tune comforting wounded strings, rescued by Shore’s dulcet piano solo and Stryker’s return. The title track is all swooning strings and Stryker’s plaintive melody, at once memorable.

2022 is a great time to be Dave Stryker. And to be a lover of his music, and the gift that is As We Are.

Learn more about As We Are on AmazonApple Music!

An Overdue Ovation for Dave Stryker

Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.