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  • Jonathan Widran

THE DAVE STRYKER TRIO, Prime

One of the most prolific and eclectic contemporary jazz guitarists working today, Dave Stryker has been performing and recording with his great trio of labelmates, organist Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter, for a dozen years now. Yet not until his latest album Prime, the first officially billed to the trio, has he recorded solely with them. Most of his landmark albums during this time, from his epic retro “Eight Track” series to Baker’s Circle (2021) have been quartet albums featuring the trio and one extra player – Walter Smith III, Stefon Harris, Steve Nelson, etc. His other projects, Blue Soul (2020) and As We Are (2022) featured legends like Bob Mintzer and John Patitucci in more expansive arrangements.

Ironically, this soulful, alternately moody, swinging and feistily funky new set emerged, like a lot of incredible projects, out of the unique pandemic restrictions. In October 2020, the trio was booked to play a live concert out of town, which couldn’t happen, so they agreed to tape a show that the venue could stream. Inspired by the opportunity to jam together after eight months of lockdown and knowing they would be in the studio, Stryker composed an album of new music exclusively for the trio. Stryker makes an interesting creative statement by reworking for trio two tracks from his string quartet album As We Are, as if to showcase the difference in intimacy when they’re stripped down to the trio vibe - the low key, hypnotically grooving “Hope” and slow-simmering, meditational ballad “As We Were.” For all the extra instrumentation and colors Stryker’s albums have had over the past decade, it’s clear he can shimmer, fire up, jam and play it atmospherically cool just as powerfully and soulfully with his two main cats.

The trio takes us on a full-stop rhythmic adventure, speeding from the speedy and bustling rambunctiousness of the opening track “Prime” and two booming and snappy, hard swinging romps dedicated to Stryker’s first boss Jack McDuff (“Captain Jack” and “Dude’s Lounge”) through the jaunty “Lockdown,” where they express the fun of finally being sprung. Striker also includes a tribute to/showcase for his esteemed drummer Hunter (“Mac”). Here’s hoping there are more trio only sessions on the way!

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