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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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City of Angels

Nothin' Wrong With It

Self-Portrait In Three Colors


Ft. Greene Scene

Great Plains



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.

Jonathan Woolf

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