Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and The WDR Big Band - Blue Soul (Strikezone Records, 2020)

Noted Detroit guitarist and author Dave Stryker teams up with tenor saxophonist and arranger Bob Mintzer and the famous WDR big band of Germany to create a bright and colorful program of pop songs and originals placed into a jazz setting that encourages crisp playing and creative solos. Stryker often records and tours in a more economic fashion, leading an organ trio, and it is the organ which infuses the classic Marvin Gaye tune "What's Going On." The song works really well in this context, retaining the subtle groove of the original while allowing room for spacious solos for graceful organ and guitar. They gamely try a take of Prince's "When Doves Cry" and while it it is certainly not unsuccessful, it lacks some of the snap and grit that made the original so startlingly bold. Nevertheless the horns add strong riffs, and Stryker builds a snaking and flowing solo to the mix. "Wichita Lineman" has dribbled out of AM radios for decades, and it's indelible and familiar melody gives the listener something tangible to latch onto while the leader is able to construct a guitar solo that stays within melodic boundaries, yet is able to able to explore the song's template within a jazz complex. The wide open and bluesy material at the end of the disc really finds everyone on common ground and playing very well together. "Shadowboxing" has a tight and nimble arrangement, playing at a strong up tempo with a functional arrangement that allows the band to shine and then focus their light on a well played tenor saxophone solo and Stryker's own solo which is is framed in the glow of the band's arrangement. The same takes place on the finale, "Stan's Shuffle," where Mintzer gets a well deserved moment to shine after all the hard work he put in behind the scene, with the full band playing grandly alongside the soloists creating the perfect fanfare for a sendoff. This was a very good mainstream jazz album, drawing from pop music, modern big band ideas and infused with jazz improvisation, there is something for everybody in this thoughtful, well articulated album. Blue Soul - amazon.com

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