City of Angels
Nothin' Wrong With It
Self-Portrait In Three Colors
Ft. Greene Scene
Lickety Split Lounge.
Dave Stryker (guitar); Steve Slagle (alto saxophone, soprano saxophone (2), flute (3, 6)); John Clark (French Horn); Billy Drewes (tenor saxophone, bass
clarinet (2-3)); Clark Gayton (trombone, tuba (3, 6)); Bill O'Connell (piano, Fender Rhodes (2, 5-6)); Gerald Cannon (bass); McClenty Hunter (drummer)
Recorded November 2015, Trading 8’s Studio, Paramus, NJ [58:20]
It’s seems like only ten minutes ago that I last reviewed a Stryker-Slagle album but time is deceptive. It was actually half an hour. The point is that
this duo has been laying down some excellent tracks of late, reflected in a succession of fine discs, of which this is the latest. This time however it’s
Stryker-Slagle Unchained or – rather – expanded through the inclusion of keyboard and three additional horns. The quartet is now a righteous octet.
There are nine tracks for the band to negotiate. All are by the co-leaders, four apiece, except one, a classic Mingus composition. This is a wholly
appropriate choice as Mingus is something of a lodestar for the bandleaders. City of Angels is a medium-tempo tribute to LA, in which Slagle’s
incisive alto is followed by Stryker’s cooking guitar to fine effect, the band’s colours – infused by French horn, trombone and tenor sax – sounding rather
reminiscent of Gil Evans. Nothin’ Wrong With It generates a steamy vibe, almost at times High Life, with Slagle wielding his soprano beneficially,
whilst the Mingus ballad Self-Portrait in Three Colors is evocatively and deftly coloured via Stryker’s articulate backing and soling, drenched in
bluesy stylings, and the bass clarinet of Billy Drewes.
There’s a dose of Blue Note Soul in Slagle’s Ft. Greene Scene with crisp rhythm and the alert keyboard skills of Bill O’Connell – here on Fender
Rhodes – driving the music onward but loosely. The tuba makes a striking appearance in Great Plains, lending a richer downward coloration to the
band, where the front line voicings are ingeniously deployed. One of Stryker’s most exuberant solos comes in Gardena and the band ends with the
up-tempo Blues shuffle of Lickety Split Lounge where Clark Gayton blows a gutsy trombone. It’s a confident and vibrant way to end this fine album.