In my enthusiastic review of guitarist Dave Stryker’s 2019 album Eight Track III – which capped his trilogy of contemporary jazz interpretations of classic pop hits from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – I wrote, “The songs that could have been played on an 8-track apparatus in the 70s still sound fresh as jazz adventures in the 21st Century.”
Delightfully, I was joined in my fandom of the series by legendary saxman Bob Mintzer, who guested several times in Stryker’s organ trio and had the brilliant notion to adapt some of those inventive tracks to colorful, free-spirited big band arrangements. With Mintzer serving as the principal conductor for Cologne, Germany’s WDR Big Band, the rousing, funky and playfully swinging Blue Soul came together fairly quickly. In March 2019, the guitarist was invited to Germany for a week of rehearsing, recording and performing with the band.
The obvious initial attractions are the buoyant, bluesy jazz romps through the songs we’ve long cherished, including Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” and “What’s Going On,” Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Glen Campbell’s (through songwriter Jimmy Webb) “Wichita Lineman.”
Those four tunes, however, are merely the foundation for an always, hoppin’, well rounded set that includes a jammin’ Mintzer original (“Aha”), three snazzy Stryker originals (highlighted by the pairing of his brilliant jangling strum, Billy Test’s churchy organ and Mintzer’s monster solo on “Blues Strut”) and the coolly strutting Stanley Turrentine number “Stan’s Shuffle” just for the fun of it. Beyond Mintzer, the powerhouse solo sax energy of Johan Horlen (alto) and Paul Keller (tenor) is one of the project’s great driving forces.
Here’s hoping that, like the Stryker projects which inspired it, Blue Soul is just the beginning of a great new series spotlighting both classics and originals.