Guitarist Dave Stryker is closely associated with saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, with whom he once toured and recorded. Yet "All the Way," Stryker's new album, often brings to mind another reedman, Sonny Rollins, known for his attraction to pop standards and his gift for thematic embellishment and improvisation.
No doubt Stryker would be uncomfortable with the comparison, given Rollins's deserved stature as a jazz titan, but this collection of pop and jazz chestnuts nevertheless reveals the guitarist's Rollinsesque knack for refurbishing threadbare melodies and progressions. The fact that Stryker has chosen to play in a trio format, a challenging setting Rollins helped popularize, only underscores the parallels, intentional or not.
Mind you, Stryker revitalizes "I Got Rhythm," "God Bless the Child" "A Lazy Afternoon" and other favorites in his own fashion. He displays a warm, rounded tone, spacious phrasing, subtle harmonic substitutions, unexpected rhythmic displacements and a hand-in-glove rapport with his exceptionally sensitive bandmates, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart. The result is an intimate guitar recital that sounds at once familiar and fresh, alluring and surprising.
Stryker can also be heard on the new album by his label and tour mate, saxophonist Steve Slagle. Here, all the tunes but one were written by Thelonious Monk, the exception being "Monk," Slagle's thoroughly evocative tribute to the composer. Not surprisingly, much of the album's charm derives from Monk's pen, and it's particularly enjoyable to hear the quartet, featuring bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum, bracket the seldom heard "Worry Later" and "Ugly Beauty" with smart, inventive arrangements of "Think of One," "Criss-Cross" and "Epistrophy." Slagle's tart alto tone illuminates the curious contours that give shape to these tunes, though not to be missed is his supple and stirring alto clarinet work on "Jackie-ing."
Both appearing Tuesday at Blues Alley.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Dave Stryker, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8108. For a Sound Bite from Steve Slagle, press 8109. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)