Location: AMERICA NORTH: USA: New Jersey (NJ)
Now here's a winning hand: Dave Stryker's organ trio, ten of the world's finest tenor saxophone players, and the legacy of Stanley Turrentine. You could call it a tribute to the late tenor great, but given Stryker's audacious title, Mister T looms here more like an enduring challenge than an icon of past glories. The Pittsburgh native died 15 years ago, but he remains synonymous with soulfulness.
Messin' with Mister T is Dave Stryker's personal homage to Turrentine, whom he toured with for over a decade and recorded with twice. Dave says that being hired by Stanley was a "real validation" of his playing, and he's had it in mind "ever since he passed to do something like this tribute." One sure sign that the time was right is that everyone he asked to appear on the date came "immediately on board. Stanley meant so much to all of us." Deciding who would play which tune fell into place without a hitch, too, as did the material, which basically reflects Turrentine's set lists from the years Stryker toured with him.
The greater challenge that Stryker faced on Messin' with Mister T was to pay proper respects to his mentor while still managing to make a "Dave Stryker record." I'd say he's succeeded from start to finish, and Chris Potter, who joins him here for a phenomenal take on "Impressions," knows why. "There's no better person to pay tribute to Stanley than Dave because the musical values Stanley always stood for— swing, soulfulness, taste, melody, and beautiful sound— are carried forward in everything that Dave plays."
Messin' with Mister T is the latest in the brilliant series of recordings that Stryker has led over the past 25 years, and a follow-up to his hugely successful Eight Track (Strikezone 8812). The guitarist seems never at a loss for inspiration and the array of styles he commands and the flow of ideas he executes is truly impressive. Dave says that Turrentine's influence was especially strong in showing him how important it was to establish a sound of his own, and to "communicate to people. Stanley had an audience, and he never left them behind."
1. Houston Person kicks off Messin' with Mr. T with "La Place Street," the Turrentine original named for the block where he was raised in Pittsburgh. Person's gutsy lyricism and McClenty Hunter's driving shuffle make for an irresistible table-setter. "Houston set the tone for the whole date," Stryker says in gratitude for the 80-year-old tenor player's contribution. "La Place" also comes with a poignant memory for the guitarist who remembers it as the last tune Turrentine ever played. Then 66, Stanley concluded his late set at the Blue Note in the wee small hours of September 9, 2000, with "La Place." He died 3 days later.
2. "Pieces of Dreams" by Michel Legrand was one of Turrentine's biggest hits. Here it is a nice latin feature for Dave and tenor saxist Mike Lee.
3. Don Braden, here upholding the ominous swagger of "Don't Mess with Mr. T," the Marvin Gaye soundtrack hit from Trouble Man that Stanley transformed into a signature song of his own, admires the combination of tough and tender that made Turrentine so appealing. "The most important things about Stanley," Braden asserts, "were his sound and the attitude he projected when he played. He was authoritative and powerful, a player you'd recognize in any situation. He was versatile, too: he played the mess out of blues, standards, funk, and pop. Love him!"
4. Another highlight of the set is Jimmy Heath's feature, "In a Sentimental Mood." Duke Ellington's stately ballad is introduced by Dave's chords and arpeggios, and Heath, who's now 88, plays it with the graceful sensitivity for which he'll forever be renowned. Dave says Heath did him "a real solid" by agreeing to appear on the date. Jimmy's played "Sentimental Mood" for years on soprano; that he's now rendered it on tenor is "a solid" for the rest of us.
5. "Impressions" is one of the most storied compositions in modern jazz. Turrentine first recorded the Coltrane original on his CTI debut Sugar in 1971 and continued to play it for the rest of his career. All in all, this version featuring the amazing Chris Potter, is a tour de force worthy of Trane, Mister T, and Wes Montgomery, who famously played "Impressions" at the Half Note in 1965.
6. Bob Mintzer, whose tenor mastery is deployed on Freddie Hubbard's "Gibraltar," shared something on the order of mutual admiration with this date's presiding force. "I'm grateful to have known Stanley. He occasionally came out to hear me play. His sound and feel had so much personality. His warm spirit and big heart were evident in his music as well."
7. Eric Alexander, who plays "Salt Song," says the Milton Nascimento original was "one of the great CTI records that Stanley made. And that particular tune was a hit and always a favorite of mine. I must say that I felt some trepidation about recording that song, because it's difficult to follow up such a classic version and retain some individuality while paying tribute to the person." Eric rises to the challenge with his gorgeous sound and ideas.
8. Javon Jackson, who got the plum assignment of playing "Sugar," Mister T's best known original, enjoyed a personal connection with Stanley. He says, "I will forever love Stanley Turrentine as a man and musician. He was always there for me and offered frequent advice, especially his thoughts on sound and the blues. He was one of a kind!"
9. "Sidesteppin'," which here features Steve Slagle, his longtime co-leader in The Stryker/Slagle Band (on tenor!), is a funky Stryker original that Turrentine introduced in 1995 on T Time.
10. "Let it Go" the albums swinging closer is another Turrentine original and features the youngest tenor player on the date, Tivon Pennicott, who recently placed 2nd in the Thelonious Monk Competition, and is starting to make a name for himself on the NY scene.
Eric Alexander echoed the sentiments of all the players in his regard for the leader. "I was so pleased that Dave asked me to be a part of his project. He loves a lot of the same things that I love about Turrentine, and he contributed so much to Stanley's music in the latter part of his long career. So thanks to Dave and thanks to Stanley for bringing this great music to life."
Messin' with Mister T is winning hand indeed, as Dave Stryker has put together a joyous and swinging celebration of the music of Stanley Turrentine with 10 of the greatest tenor players on the scene today.
Track Listing and Credits:
1. La Place Street (Stanley Turrentine) w/ Houston Person 7:04
2. Pieces of Dreams (Michel Legrand) w/ Mike Lee 6:50
3. Don't Mess With Mister T (Marvin Gaye) w/ Don Braden 8:13
4. In a Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington) w/ Jimmy Heath 6:28
5. Impressions (John Coltrane) w/ Chris Potter 9:10
6. Gibraltar (Freddie Hubbard) w/ Bob Mintzer 6:30
7. Salt Song (Milton Nascimento) w/ Eric Alexander 7:03
8. Sugar (Stanley Turrentine) w/ Javon Jackson 6:56
9. Sidesteppin' (Dave Stryker) w/ Steve Slagle 5:40
10. Let it Go (Stanley Turrentine) w/ Tivon Pennicott 6:43
Dave Stryker – Guitar
Jared Gold = Hammond B3 Organ
McClenty Hunter –drums
Mayra Casales – Percussion (2, 6-10)
Produced by Dave Stryker
Engineered, Mixed, and Mastered by Chris Sulit at Trading Eights Studio, Paramus NJ Dec 13-14, 2014
For more info visit: www.davestryker.com
Whether you’ve heard guitarist Dave Stryker fronting his own group (with 23 CD’s as a leader to date), or as a featured sideman with Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff, and many others, you know why Gary Giddins in the Village Voice calls him “one of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years.” He was voted one of the Top Ten Guitarists in the 2001 Downbeat Readers poll, and a Rising Star for the last 5 years in the Downbeat Critics Poll. His approach combining the jazz burn to a soulful blues feeling is communicating to new fans wherever he plays. His most recent CD “Blue Strike” has made many Best of 2011 lists including WBGO Jazz Radio and Tom Reney/New England Pulic Radio.
Dave Stryker grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and moved to New York City in 1980. After establishing himself in the local music scene, he joined organist Jack McDuff’s group for two years 1984-85. When McDuff wasn’t on the road (literally traveling by van all over the country) they worked a steady four-night a week gig at Dude’s Lounge in Harlem. His first break, this turned out to be an invaluable experience, paying his dues night after night with the soulful jazz organist. It was at Dude’s Lounge that Stryker met tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, who would occasionally sit in. After leaving McDuff, Turrentine asked Stryker to join his quintet. From 1986-1995 he played with the legendary saxophonist at all the major festivals, concert halls, and clubs throughout the world. He is featured on two Turrentine CD’s (Stanley recorded Stryker’s tune “Sidesteppin”). With Turrentine, Stryker was able to play with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard. The ten years playing alongside the tenor legend helped Stryker realize the importance of having his own sound. Dave continued to work with Stanley and was with him during his final week at the Blue Note in NYC, when he passed in Sept. 2000.
Early on Stryker realized that as much as he loved playing standards and the jazz repertoire he had to have something of his own to give to the music. He feels that his writing combined with his playing is what shapes his musical expression. He has recorded and published over 130 of his own compositions. Eighteen of those compositions (from the first five SteepleChase CD’s) are compiled in the book : The Music of Dave Stryker (SteepleChase Music) which can be ordered on this website. Some of the other artists who have recorded his music are: Stanley Turrentine, Kevin Mahogany, Victor Lewis, and Steve Slagle. Dave continues to perform with his working unit The Stryker / Slagle Band as well as his other projects: The Dave Stryker Organ Trio, and The Blue to the Bone Band. Recent gigs for The Stryker / Slagle Band have included a recent week at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Monterey Jazz Festival, The Blue Note in Las Vegas, The Jazz Bakery in LA, and a 2003 tour of Japan.
Recent sideman work has included vocalist Kevin Mahogany’s group, with Dave writing and arranging music for Kevin’s Telarc release Pride and Joy and Another Time, Another Place on Warner Bros and tours of Europe, Japan, Brazil, Poland and Carnegie Hall. He also has worked with Blue Note saxophonist Javon Jackson and pianist Eliane Elias. He has appeared on over 50 CD’s as a sideman. As a producer, Stryker compiled the CD The Guitar Artistry of Billy Rogers which is the only existing record of the brilliant jazz playing of the late underground legend who was his friend, former teacher and member of the Crusaders. He has also produced “A Tribute to Grant Green” on Evidence Music.
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