Dave Stryker Quartet at Smalls 2/16/18 (by Jeff McGregor)

Dave Stryker

PERSONNEL: Dave Stryker (guitar), Bob Mintzer (tenor saxophone), Jared Gold (organ), McClenty Hunter (drums)

SET LIST: Blues Strut (Stryker), Pusherman (Mayfield), Thaddeus (Mintzer), Everything Happens to Me (Dennis), Shadow Boxing (Stryker)

HIGHLIGHTS: The quartet’s arrangement of Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” allowed each soloist space to create and explore while maintaining the spirit and vibe of the original.

Dave Stryker’s trio with Jared Gold and McClenty Hunter has been together since Hunter joined the group in 2010. They have performed and recorded regularly including their most recent record Strykin Ahead, which featured vibraphonist Steve Nelson. The organ trio has been an important part of Stryker’s musical history:

I grew up listening to records by Grant Green with Larry Young, Jimmy Smith, etc. I was fortunate to play 2 years with the great Jack McDuff and ten years with Stanley Turrentine.

This night at Smalls, the trio was joined for a rare New York appearance from tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer. The evening opened with Stryker’s hard-grooving shuffle “Blues Strut.” Stryker’s solo was patiently developed, beautifully combining soulful melodies with well-placed harmonic substitutions. Mintzer’s improvisation had a similar alteration of blues and superimposed harmony, which he sang out with his compact, Joe Henderson-esque tone. Gold dug in with a rich wash of melody and harmony underpinned by his relentlessly swinging left-hand bass. Throughout the tune, Hunter’s deep shuffle groove was punctuated by perfectly placed accents and hits.

Mintzer’s medium-swing “Thaddeus” was a tribute to Thad Jones and a contrafact on Jones’ “The Groove Merchant.” Hunter and Gold laid down a warm and relaxed groove for Mintzer’s tight, gospel-like melody. Mintzer’s solo combined punchy, rhythmic figures with harmonically daring lines. Stryker swung particularly hard with an improvisation full of blues and bop. The quartet’s interpretation of “Everything Happens To Me” beautifully captured the melancholy mood of the song. Stryker began with an unaccompanied introduction. Mintzer then danced through the melody with sensitivity and imagination and was answered by a half-chorus solo from Stryker. Mintzer reentered on the bridge, gradually returning to the melody in the last A before arriving at his cadenza, which balanced virtuosity with lyricism.

The set closed with Stryker’s “Shadow Boxing”, a fast-moving piece punctuated by heavily-syncopated hits at the end of the form. It featured concise and powerful solos from all four musicians, confirming their commitment to melody, swing, and the blues.

— by Jeff McGregor