Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Stryker/Slagle Band: Latest Outlook

By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.3.07
Buy CD: Latest Outlook

The Stryker/Slagle "band" actually is a quartet: Dave Stryker on guitar, Steve Slagle on alto and soprano sax, Jay Anderson on bass, and Billy Hart on drums. 

For this session, they also added tenor sax player Joe Lovano on a couple of tracks. 

The group is based in New York and works primarily in the East Coast area. Although all the members are excellent musicians, only Hart and Lovano are jazz "names": Hart has played in numerous groups, while Lovano is best known for his membership in one of Woody Herman's Herds. 

All but one of the tunes on this CD were composed and arranged by either Stryker or Slagle. The one exception is "Self Portrait In Three Colors," written by Charles Mingus. 

Most of the tracks follow a format in which the guitar and featured horns play a relatively tricky theme in unison, after which each artist follows with a solo, and then the group concludes with a repeat of the unison theme. This style is reminiscent of the many groups that created the "West Coast sound" back in the 1950s and up through the '70s ... and, for me, the routine verges on boring after a while. 

On the other hand, the solo work is truly excellent, and the beat established by Hart and Anderson really drives each track. 

This is a promising group, but less complex arrangements and more solo work would have raised my rating.

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