Veteran (and mindbogglingly prolific!) electric guitar great Dave Stryker has been in a delightful 70’s musical time warp on and off for so long (actually since 2014, when the first of four Eight Track cover projects came out) that we thought he might never rejoin the 21st Century. Not that that was a particularly negative thing, since those albums were so dynamic and he peppered his discography along the way with other recent gems like Blue Soul (2020) and Baker’s Circle (2021).
Turns out that all previous 33 albums as a leader were just laying a foundation for As We Are, a gorgeous, sweeping and transcendently performed set that he’s rightly calling his “dream project” because it’s his first where his inimitably soulful and supply guitar tones are embraced by the lush caress of lush, vibrant and soulfully transcendent string quartet.
To help him realize his vision, Stryker naturally enlists a dream team quartet of his own featuring the seamless interplay and intuitive melodic and improvisational conversations between himself, pianist Julian Shore, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. After focusing so much on re-imagining classics over the past decade, it’s wonderful that the only tune here not penned by either Stryker or Shore (the bustling, speedy, hard swinging “One Thing at a Time”) is a delightfully obscure tune from Nick Drake’s 1969 solo album Five Leaves Left that’s presented here as a moody, contemplative meditation whose spell is broken blissfully by a whimsical Sara Caswell violin solo and an artfully snazzy Stryker solo section.
Whether the tempo is methodical and sensual (as on the hypnotic/exotic “Saudade” and the haunting title track) or more intensely percussive (“Lanes,” “Soul Friend”), the listener will feel transported into the warmly atmospheric realm of Stryker’s dreams. It’s not a time machine this time, but it’s as equally soul-stirring as all those groovy travels in the past.