Once he wrapped his esteemed series of nostalgic Eight Track projects, veteran guitarist Dave Stryker got grooving on one of the most prolific, intriguing and situationally varied creative runs of his career. The first of four previous albums he recorded in the 2020s was Blue Soul featuring legendary saxophonist Bob Mintzer leading the WDR Big Band. Three years later, after 12 years playing regularly with Strikezone labelmates organist Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter, Jr., he and his trio recorded their first official project Prime.
Stryker’s latest opus, the aptly titled Groove Street, offers the best of both these worlds, adding the inimitable, emotionally intense (and always game for funky and swinging adventures) Mintzer to the mix as a special guest on the trio’s latest studio date Groove Street. Though the unofficial quartet (also billing Mintzer as guest artist) has played together on a few tours, the magical twist as they wind down Groove Street is that they’ve never before played any of these six originals (by Stryker, Mintzer and Gold) and fresh interpretations of gems by Wayne Shorter (a moody-bluesy, sweetly seductive “Infant Eyes”), Eddie Harris (the always chipper and rambunctious “Cold Duck Time”) and Harry Warren (a light swing through “The More I See You”at.
The group is so deeply intuitive, locked in and spontaneously communicative that they pull nearly everything off in a single take, as if this first official studio session is simply an extension of their live performances. While they include the Shorter ballad as something of a chillout in the midst of the excitement, buoyancy and bustle are the defining and driving orders of the session, from Strykery’s opening rockin’ jazz swing-romp opening title track (featuring one of his trademark dazzling solos flying over Gold’s feisty organ energy) to the hip, frenetic Mintzer-penned “Straight Ahead,” a final bow which showcases the saxophonist’s hard driving prowess, followed by yet another Stryker fiery improvisational burst. Whether or not Mintzer ever becomes an official member or it’s ever renamed a quartet, here’s hoping this unit will be gracing our ears for the long haul.