Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Lithely Orchestral New Album From Guitarist Dave Stryker

Dave Stryker is known for being one of the most purposeful guitarists in jazz, and much of that is due to the deep blues influence that runs through his music. His latest album As We Are – streaming at Bandcamp – is his first with a string section, and interestingly the blues takes a backseat to more tropical inflections here. It’s the rare lean orchestral jazz album, 180 degrees from those Wes Montgomery records that were needlessly gunked up with unimaginative string arrangements. Pianist Julian Shore’s charts for the quartet of violinists Sara Caswell and Monica K.Davis, violist Benni von Gutzeit and cellist Marika Hughes are sleek yet biting, often adding disquiet rather than expected pillowy atmosphere. Bassist John Patitucci and Brian Blade provide understated, lithe propulsion.

There’s a brief, wistfully crescendoing string quartet overture to introduce the first full-band number, Lanes, beginning as a lean quasi-bossa. The rest of the band match Stryker’s economy of notes through his solo. Shore takes a rippling solo as the strings rise with a distantly wafting unease.

The album’s lone cover is a radical reinvention of Nick Drake’s River Man. Stryker’s somber, skeletal phrasing anchors wispy, stratospheric ambience from the strings until Patittucci’s lithe riffage draws the rest of the band in. Caswell sails and dips with a stiletto grace, handing off to Stryker’s similarly nimble, raindrop-dodging solo as the strings mist the windows. No doubt Drake would be satisfied (happy might be too strong a word for that gloomy guy) with the group as they sepulchrally wind their way down and out.

The catchy, tropically vamping Hope is pretty much 180 degrees from that, anchored by Patitucci’s terse pulse. Saudade is a similarly translucent, bittersweet song without words: imagine a mashup of Jimmy Giuffre pastoralia as played by a young George Benson.

The group shift from a moody, altered waltz through flickers of phantasmagoria to a spare, scrambling Shore solo in One Thing At a Time, written by the pianist. Patittucci clusters and romps, up to a long, shivery orchestral interlude; it would be nice to hear more Stryker here.

As We Were is a diptych, an acidically enveloping string intro giving way to a slow, fond, spacious ballad, the high strings contrasting with Stryker and Pattitucci’s genial lines. Dreams Are Real is the album’s catchiest number, Stryker subtly negotiating between a lyrical ballad, darker flamenco echoes, nocturnal lustre that winds up with an anxious ending, and a starry interlude with Shore and the strings.

The final cut is Soul Friend, a lush blend of oldtime gospel rusticity and a reflective sway, Caswell reaching for the sky, Stryker methodically bringing the band in for a bluesy landing. His next free-world gig is with saxophonist Jack Wilkins’ USF Quartet on March 6 at 3 PM at the Tampa Jazz Club, 1411 E 11th St. in Tampa, Florida. Cover is $20; students get in half price.

March 2, 2022 - Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: