Album: The Scene
Musicians: Dave Stryker: Guitar, Steve Slagle: alto and soprano sax, flute
Jay Anderson: bass, Victor Lewis: drums, Special Guest: Joe Lovano
Tracks: Skee, The Scene, Six Four Teo, Two Sense, Kindred Spirits, Hopewell’s Last, Brighter Days, Fingers In The wind, Strikology
The Stryker/Slagle Band with Joe Lovano
Interviewing Dave Stryker
JazzReview: Your group is very busy. You have been featured weekly for about a year now at one of New York’s top jazz houses. Would you like to mention where you’ve been playing? Who is your largest audience?
Dave Stryker: The Stryker/Slagle Band is the main group. We just played at Iridium. I also have an organ trio that plays around a bit. I have a few different projects. You’re probably receiving the info from Jim Eigo. He gets my name out there. We’ve ( Stryker/Slagle Band) been together for over 20 years and have a new record out called The Scene. We’re getting out there now, playing music from that CD and promoting it. We’ll be at Cecil’s on November eight. We’ll be at Catanno on the 21st and 22nd. And, we’ll be at the Blue Note on the first (of December).
JazzReview: Written by you, the title track, "The Scene" is an expansive groove. I can visualize sitting back after Sunday brunch with a cool drink, a close friend and jamming in a small club. Jay Anderson’s bass work is outstanding.
Dave Stryker: Hmm I called it "The Scene" because I think it captivates a picture of the music scene in New York. Harmonically, the song has a lot of harmonic movement in it, so it’s kind of a tricky song to navigate harmonically. It also has a catchy enough melody that is complicated, but it’s deceptively complicated.
JazzReview: Please tell me about the idea that you are all ‘brothers on the scene’ with this music, and about dedicating so many of these songs to those ‘who have lived this way in music all their lives,’ according to your words.
Dave Stryker: That’s what it is-having our group and having Joe as our guest. Joe’s a guy we have known for many years. Steve and Joe actually went to Berkley back in the 70s. I met Joe when I first came to town in the early 80s. We use to play jam sessions. The same with Jay and Victor. Victor is from my home town of Omaha. So, we are all brothers, but with different mothers. We are brothers -- musically. It’s that feeling of communal spirit, not just with our group but with all musicians who share the life of the scene in New York. And, not just the musicians but also the fans who come out to see us.
JazzReview: Yes, music lovers are a particular breed.
Joe Lovano gets around. I think he has played down here, along the Gulf Coast.
This album opens with "Skee," a song written by Steve Slagle and is dedicated in loving memory to your bassist and friend, Dennis Irwin. That is a very sensitive devotion to your fellow band member. But this song is not solemn-It’s filled with horns stretching and showing off.
Dave Stryker: Skee was Dennis Irwin’s nickname. I know what you’re saying. A dedication to someone who has passed might be more of a melancholy type thing, but we celebrated his life in all the positive things he brought with him, and playing with him, and for those who got to hear him.
JazzReview: Before going further-there are many different types of jazz. Nobody likes being categorized but for the purpose of understanding, your group is not a smooth jazz contemporary group is it? You’re more improvisational? More traditional? In the era of Bop?
Dave Stryker: We’re more straight ahead, swinging, but with more modern writing. We’re not really into the smooth jazz, contemporary, --that kind of stuff. This is real New York kind of swing. One thing about the record is, it has a positive feel to it, which we’re happy about. It has a strong melodic content that hopefully, will speak to the audience.
JazzReview: I understand the arrangements of your "Brighter Days" and Slagle’s "Six Four Teo" are tailor made for five pieces, both are positive and uplifting. Please tell me what it means to be tailor made for five pieces?
Dave Stryker: Usually our group plays as a quartet. saxophone, guitar, electric bass and drums. Steve wrote his song "Six Four Teo," thinking of the addition of another horn-specifically Joe Lovano on tenor. So when he wrote it, instead of thinking of our usual quartet format, he was thinking of what it would sound like with two horns.
And, with my tune "Brighter Days," I also wrote an arrangement of that song. I had previously recorded an arrangement of that song with a trio of mine, a record called The Chaser. It was an organ trio record. I expanded it the same way for two horns-I think that’s what he meant by that statement.
JazzReview: Written by Steve Slagle and dedicated to his late brother, Stuart, "Hopewell’s Last," is a very spirited song, but also introspective to me. How would you describe it?
Dave Stryker Well, kind of poignant. It’s a ballad, another one that Steve wrote, thinking of two horns.
JazzReview: Jammin’-- horns wailing! You do a hot spot on lead guitar on "Two Sense," which was written by Steve for his daughter, Lydia. Victor Lewis really shows off his drum skills. Slagle says this song has an open-to-all harmony. What does this mean in laymen’s terms?
Dave Stryker: Well, I think that song is inspired by Ornette Coleman a little bit. It’s that type of sound that has an open harmony where you can solo off of the melody, instead of the harmonic chord changes. That’s what I think he means when he says open-when you get to the solo section after melody is played, you can go in a lot of different directions cause the harmony is wide open.
JazzReview: So, you’re saying this leads to more improvisation because there’s more spaces for the instruments?
Dave Stryker: Yeah, uh-huh.
JazzReview: Okay, I get it. Thank you.
Another song written by you, "Kindred Spirits," lets the audience enjoy your brilliance on acoustic guitar, while the depth of the bass keeps a solid background. Keeping with the spirit of that song, you and Steve do a duet with him on flute for Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s composition, "Fingers in The Wind."
You did this in one take?
Dave Stryker: Um-huh ..
Recording in a studio up in New York, this is the way we record we just go ahead and play. That’s part of the beauty of this music. You just go for the magic and try to capture some of that magic you get while playing. Basically, there’s some mixing done later when they adjust certain volumes of certain instruments, but basically there’s no over-dubbing. The only over-dubbing would be a couple places-I might have added another guitar part. But as far as the solos, they happened in real time.
JazzReview: There’s a different kind of energy to a live recording than a studio recorded record.
Winding down, you close the album with "Strikology." You were inspired by a John Coltrane set of changes while writing this?
Dave Stryker: It’s based on a set of changes to "Lazy Bird," a song by John Coltrane, so the harmonic structure of the song is the chord changes to "Lazy Bird." I wrote another melody over those. That’s a common practice in jazz, going all the way back to Charlie Parker, who would write different melodies over the popular songs of the day. That’s where that came up with.
JazzReview: Can you tell me a little something about your musicians in this group?
Dave Stryker: Steve Slagle is one of the great alto players on the New York scene. Joe Lovano is also one of the great saxophone players today. Jay Anderson is a good friend of ours who is all over the scene. All of these guys are all over the scene. And, drummer Victor Lewis has played with many, many greats. He’s also is a leader in his own group, and a great writer, as well. That’s why he plays drums so great. These guys all have serious bios of who they have played with. You can Google any of them.
The main thing is we’re trying to have a group sound in this day and age-a cohesive sound that we’re going for. And, all these guys have known each other so long and we’re all friends. That helps.
JazzReview Thank you so much for this interview. I wish your group much success.
Of course, this band doesn’t need ‘luck.’ Known as the heavy hitters on the ‘real,’ New York jazz scene, Stryker Slagle Band has drawn a following group of fans for years.
The Scene is just the latest in their commitment to swinging, hot jazz for true music lovers.
Label Website: www.zohomusic.com