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Dave Stryker: Messin’ With Mr. T

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The bluesy, soulful guitarist Dave Stryker played in tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine’s band from 1986 through 1995. On Messin’ With Mr. T, he invites 10 tenor players, organist Jared Gold, drummer McClenty Hunter and, on six tracks, percussionist Mayra Casales to join him in a tribute to the late “Mister T.” The tenormen, ranging in age from 29-year-old Tivon Pennicott to 88-year-old Jimmy Heath, play a tune apiece from a typical setlist from Stryker’s years with Turrentine. There is gospel-like joy throughout, in experiencing the rhythm section grooves and solos as well as the tenor melody statements and solos.

Eighty-year-old Houston Person leads off the set with Turrentine’s shuffle-groove “La Place Street.” The shouts, soulfulness and irresistible rhythm of this performance testify that Person and Turrentine come from the same church. “Don’t Mess With Mister T, ” by Marvin Gaye, features Don Braden, who perhaps comes closest to Turrentine’s sound among the tenormen here. Then there are Chris Potter’s fiery performance of John Coltrane’s “Impressions” and Javon Jackson’s take on “Sugar,” Turrentine’s best-known composition. Heath’s gentlemanly performance of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” is another stand-out performance. The other tracks include tenormen Mike Lee on “Pieces of a Dream,” Bob Mintzer on “Gibraltar,” Eric Alexander on “Salt Song,” Steve Slagle (yes, on tenor rather than his customary alto) on “Side Steppin'” and Pennicott on “Let It Go.”

While the emphasis is on the saxophonists throughout this set, Stryker, Gold and Hunter do not take a backseat. Like Turrentine, Stryker is a perfect combination of accessible grooves, melodic expression, blues feeling and soul. It’s worth listening to this set not only for the tenor soloists but also for the rhythm section’s accompaniment and solos.

Originally Published