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Dave Stryker: Shades of Miles

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Guitarist Dave Stryker has already documented his warm-toned blues ‘n’ bop playing in a variety of contexts over a dozen projects for SteepleChase, from organ trio to quartets, quintets and his acclaimed Blues to the Bone nonet. For this homage to electric Miles Davis, circa In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, Stryker has assembled a stellar crew and written a batch of tunes that capture the adventurous spirit of those landmark recordings without resorting to outright mimicry.

The dark opener, “Topaz,” is underscored by Billy Drewes’ bass clarinet doubling bassist Terry Burns’ ostinato, simultaneously alluding to “Pharaoh’s Dance,” the ominous opening track to Bitches Brew, and “Shhhh/Peaceful” and “It’s About that Time” from In a Silent Way. The use of two Fender Rhodes players, Marc Copland and Larry Goldings, completes the Miles connection here. The piece evolves organically through 14 minutes, with Drewes, trumpeter Brian Lynch, soprano saxophonist Steve Slagle and organist Goldings tossing off probing solos along the way as drummer Billy Hart grooves the proceedings with polyrhythmic boogaloo power.

Lynch goes for the mute on the surging “Sienna” as Stryker reaches for his wah-wah pedal in the midst of the fray. “Orchid” is a beautiful ballad feature for Lynch that also includes some of Stryker’s warmest and tastiest playing on the record. “Jade,” another dark, edgy offering that hangs on an ominous sounding ostinato, is reminiscent of “Spanish Key” from Bitches Brew. Once again, Drewes’ bass clarinet works against the Rhodes tandem of Goldings and Copland and helps create the desired shade of Miles.

“Cobalt” is Stryker’s cathartic blues played with gutsy wah-wah-laced abandon and well-placed touches of dissonance. And Lynch’s “Fuchsia,” after a lushly appointed intro, heads into some funky territory reminiscent of “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” that has the trumpeter wailing through his wah-wah pedal.

Stryker and his comrades grew up with this stuff when it was new, exciting and dangerous music. It’s nice to hear them come full circle and rekindle this edgy vibe with such authority.