By Matt Micucci
Jazz guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist Steve Slagle have been collaborating for several decades on each other’s projects. In addition, they have been co-leaders of their own band since the ‘90s. Under the heading The Stryker/Slagle Band, they have made some of the hardest driving, most musically adventurous and outright joyous music on the planet.
Their latest recording is entitled Routes. It will be released on Strikezone Records on February 5.
Here, they continue to manifest their extraordinary collaborative powers. What also stays in place is that Stryker and Slagle remain the soul-satisfying, deep-groove players they’ve been for decades. What’s changed is their classic quartet line-up, which has been expanded with the addition of a keyboard and three additional horns, and now features imaginative and innovative four-horn arrangements by Slagle in an all-original program by Stryker and Slagle that’s augmented by a version of Charles Mingus’ “Self-Portrait in Three Colors”. Slagle has written brilliant, multi-textured, engaging, flavorful horn arrangements that repay repeated listening.
The album’s title refers to the richness of this dazzling project, for which Stryker and Slagle have written songs they associate with the complex geographical and personal routes they’ve traveled to arrive in their present lives. Both coasts and the Midwest come directly into focus in its titles and music.
Joining Stryker and Slagle are superb keyboardist Bill O’Connell, on all but one track, Billy Drewes on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, John Clark on French horn, Clark Gayton on trombone and tuba, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer McClenty Hunter.