Jazz guitarist/composer Dave Stryker is apparently one of those types who does not like resting easily on his laurels. That is evidenced through the release of his latest album, As We Are. Released less than a year after his then most recent album, Baker’s Circle (which was released in March 2021), this new nine-song album was released Friday. As with Baker’s Circle, the 55-minute record was released through Stryker’s own label, Strikezone Records. It is a welcome new offering from Stryker and an equally enjoyable early entry in this year’s field of new jazz albums. That is because its featured songs are not just the typical works for which Stryker has come to be known throughout his career. Rather the addition of the string arrangements to the mix in this case gives the album something of a chamber music vibe, too. That and Stryker’s more familiar jazz-driven guitar sounds together make for plenty for audiences to appreciate. ‘As We Were,’ one of the album’s late entries, is just one of the ways in which the noted statements are supported. It will be discussed shortly. ‘Soul Friend,’ which closes out the album, is another example of how the album’s blend of styles and sounds makes it worth hearing. It will be discussed a little later. Stryker’s cover of Nick Drake’s ‘River Man’ is yet another example of how Stryker and company’s blend of guitar-centered jazz and strings makes this record so worth hearing. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes As We Are a fully enjoyable new offering from Stryker and his fellow musicians.
Dave Stryker’s new album, As We Are is a welcome early entry to this year’s field of new jazz albums. As noted, that is because of the way in which it balances Stryker’s familiar guitar jazz influences with the less familiar string arrangements. The album’s title track, which comes late in the record’s nearly hour-long run, is just one of the songs that serves well to exhibit that balance and in turn enjoyment. The string quartet of Sara Caswell (violin), Monica K. Davis (violin), Benni von Gutzeit (viola), and Marika Hughes (cello) does a wonderful job setting the stage in the composition’s opening bars. The group’s work is a full-on modern classical work. The way in which it transitions into the smooth, almost lounge jazz style sound that makes up the rest of the song’s body (and compliments that sound) makes for such a unique contrast in the bigger picture. Meanwhile, bassist John Pattituci takes center stage on bass with his equally subtle performance. Drummer Brian Blade’s work on the kit gives the song a wonderful final touch. When his performance joins with the others noted here, the whole composition presents itself as such a gentle modern jazz work that takes Stryker and company in a unique direction. It makes audiences fully immerse themselves in the song in the best way possible. In the end, it leaves listeners just as appreciative of the song and album in whole. It is just one of the songs that serves to show how the blend of modern classical and guitar jazz makes this record interesting. ‘Soul Friend,’ the album’s finale, is another notable addition to As We Are.
‘Soul Friend’ stands out because unlike in ‘As We Are’ the modern classical leanings are nonexistent, even with the addition of the strings in this case. Rather in this case, audiences get more of a bluesy jazz composition. That sound and approach is most pronounced through Caswell’s performance on violin. The swing that Caswell kicks in along with the noted bluesy sound gives the song such an enjoyable touch in itself. Stryker’s light runs on the guitar and Patittuci’s work on bass join with Caswell’s performance and those of the rest of the collective to make this song so fun even as subdued as it all is from start to end. The whole gives the song such a great identity separate from the rest of the album’s works. It conjures thoughts of some upscale jazz club, the lighting just bright enough to make for even more emotional depth. To that end, the song shows without doubt why it is another example of the album’s success. It is just one more of the record’s most notable works, too. The group’s take of Nick Drake’s ‘River Man’ is yet another way in which the album’s blend of styles and sounds makes it so intriguing.
Stryker and company’s take on Nick Drake’s ‘River Man’ is notable because it takes a song that is already reserved and makes it even more so in this case. Drake’s original work is itself, already somewhat jazz-esque in its approach and sound. That is evidenced through the combination of Drake’s vocals and the use of the guitar and the strings. That nuanced sound, blended with the song’s pop leanings makes Drake’s original interesting in its own right. Caswell’s violin solo and Stryker’s work on guitar pairs with Patittuci’s work on bass and Blade’s equally subtle performance on the drums (and the performances from the other string performers) to give Drake’s song an even more unique identity while working hard to stay true to the song’s source material. The whole makes the song another wonderful, enjoyable blend of Stryker’s own influences and other leanings. It makes the album in whole that much more engaging and entertaining. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes As We Are another offering from Stryker that his fans will enjoy. It makes the album overall a good start to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Dave Stryker’s brand new album, As We Are, is a welcome new offering from the veteran jazz guitarist/composer. Stryker’s established audiences and casual jazz fans alike will agree to this sentiment when they hear the album for themselves. That is because of the way in which the record’s songs blend Stryker’s jazz guitar leanings with the more modern classical elements of the string arrangements from one song to the next. All three of the songs examined here do well to make that clear. When they are considered along with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole becomes a welcome early presentation among this year’s field of new jazz albums that will appeal to most jazz fans.
As We Are is available now through Strikezone Records. More information on the record is available along with all of Dave Stryker’s latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.