Jazz guitarist Dave Stryker is a hard-working musician who clearly does not rest easy on his laurels. He has released a total of 37 records as a band leader between 1988 and this year, including a handful of compilation records. Throughout the three decades plus, Stryker has allowed no more than two years to pass between new albums at most. When he released his latest album, Prime, as leader of the Dave Stryker Trio in January, its release came no more than a year after his then latest album, As We Are. One would think as busy as Stryker keeps himself (and has kept himself clearly for years) one would think eventually all of his work would take a toll on the quality of his records, but as Prime shows, it hasn’t yet, at least in the case of the album’s featured musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. The lack of any information on the songs anywhere in the record’s packaging, however, detracts from the enjoyment of the songs to a certain point. This will be discussed a little later. Knowing that said lack is not enough to doom the record, the sequencing of said content helps with the album’s appeal in its own right. This will be discussed later, too. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation. All things considered Prime proves itself a welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Prime, the latest album from Dave Stryker, is a mostly successful offering from the veteran jazz guitarist. Its appeal comes largely from its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements that make up the album’s nearly hour-long run time (57 minutes to be exact), are each their own enjoyable cool jazz style composition and each is unique from its counterparts throughout the album. ‘Mac,’ for instance – which kicks off the album’s second half – is that cool jazz approach, but unlike its counterparts, boasts a funky backbeat from drummer McClenty Hunter and equally infectious groove from keyboardist Jared Gold on the organ. Stryker allows the duo to lead the way in this song while he uses his performance on guitar to serve in its own subtle supporting role. The whole of the musicians’ work is certain to stick in listeners’ minds long after the song ends. On another note, ‘Hope’ takes listeners in a completely different direction, keeping the cool jazz approach, but also presents a much more subdued, relaxed vibe. Stryker leads the way this time with his Pat Metheny-esque performance, while Gold partners with him to equally great, subtle effect. Hunter’s subtle use of the brushes on the snare throughout adds just enough to the song to make it fully engaging and enjoyable. ‘Dude’s Lounge,’ which closes the album, is another example of the importance of the album’s musical arrangements. This light, eight minute-plus composition is a fun, bluesy work that really allows all three men to shine at one point or another throughout its progression. Yes, even Hunter finally gets to really show off his chops late in the song with a handful of solo moments. His control is fully worthy of applause, showing that he certainly can do so much with so little in terms of his equipment and rudiments. It is another work that stands apart from its counterparts in this record and does so in fully engaging and enjoyable fashion. When it and the other songs examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole forms a solid foundation for the album.
While the musical content that makes up the album’s body forms a solid foundation for the record, the lack of any background on the songs detracts from the overall appeal. That is because, as this critic has noted so many times in the past, not having that background offers listeners little more than a surface appeal. The only background that is offered anywhere in the packaging was penned by Stryker, and it is just background on the album’s creation. The one key note in his information is that the songs featured in this record were all recorded in just one take. To that end, listeners are left to assume that for the most part, maybe these arrangements were largely improvised. Again, that is only an assumption because there is no background on the songs. If in fact they were improvised, then that improvisation certainly resulted in thorough enjoyment in each composition. One can only guess, though. To that end – again – the lack of any real tangible background on the songs does detract from the record’s appeal at least to a point. It is not enough to doom the record, though. Keeping that in mind, there is still at least one more item to note here that is positive. That item is the record’s sequencing.
From beginning to end, the record’s sequencing ensures listeners’ engagement and enjoyment because of the clear thought and intent that went into the item. The record’s first half is decidedly upbeat, even in the relaxed sound and style featured in each song. As the record progresses though, it gets more relaxed as the attention turns to ‘Hope.’ Placing the song just before the record’s midpoint is a great way to break up the record and keep things interesting. ‘As We Were,’ which immediately follows, continues that more subdued approach started with ‘Hope,’ allowing listeners to continue relaxing. At the same time it offers an arrangement that is different from that of ‘Hope,’ which adds even more to the appeal. Once ‘As We Were’ is done, things pick right back up in ‘Mac.’ The trio finds a good balance of relaxed and more upbeat styles in the very next track, ‘I Should Care’ before things really pick up again in ‘Deep.’ ‘Dude’s Lounge,’ which closes the record is a great finish to the record, what with its funky presentation. It brings a similar energy as the album’s opener while also being its own composition and stepping things up even more from ‘Deep’ but not too much. Simply put, what audiences get from beginning to end of this album is a record whose sequencing clearly laid out the songs in a specific order; an order that successfully keeps things interesting from one song to the next both in terms of style and sound. The general effect that results from this sequencing does just as much as the songs themselves to make this record engaging and entertaining. The two elements combined make Prime a welcome presentation the Stryker’s fans and those of modern guitar-based jazz alike will agree is well worth hearing.
Prime, the latest album from Dave Stryker (and new album from the Dave Stryker Trio) is an enjoyable new offering from the veteran jazz guitarist. The record’s appeal comes in large part from its featured arrangements. The arrangements are of note because of their accessibility. Each is so light yet so infectious in its simplicity. They collectively form a solid foundation for the album. The lack of any real tangible background on the songs detracts from the songs’ enjoyment, but that impact is not enough to doom the album, either. It just would have been nice to do more than assume (based on Stryker’s notes in the packaging) that the songs were possibly recorded in improvisational fashion. Knowing that the lack of any notes on the songs is not enough to doom the album, the sequencing of the songs is also of note. The sequencing was clearly directed and intentional, hearing the changing sounds and styles from one song to the next. The general effect that results from the intentional sequencing is wholly positive and works with the songs themselves to make for even more engagement and entertainment. Keeping that in mind, the songs and their sequencing pair up to give listeners plenty of reason to listen to and appreciate this latest studio offering from Dave Stryker and his fellow musicians. That appreciation will lead listeners to agree this record is another welcome addition to this year’s already increasingly widening field of new jazz albums.
Prime is available now through Dave Stryker’s Strikezone Records. More information on the record is available along with all of Dave Stryker’s latest news at: