Bright and Tight: Dave Stryker with Bob Mintzer and the WDR Big Band

Stryker CD 3

Those airy swells, chill on-pointness and big band brilliance make guitarist/leader Dave Stryker’s new album “Blue Soul” an amazing contribution to jazzhood.

The first track, “Trouble Man,” starts hot right out of the gate, swinging its way through the theme, veering off for some intense and bluesy solos by Stryker and then a stellar take-off on Hammond. A nod perhaps to mid-century spy movies, “Aha,” with its propulsive rhythms, includes a very pretty sax solo from Mintzer. The arrangement of “When Doves Cry” is a fresh-baked and high-powered surprise; Stryker’s improv travels to unfathomable places before it resets the theme. When sax follows it adds its own creative sheen. Too hip to miss, “Stan’s Shuffle” is so much fun that you imagine all the musicians bouncing on their feet and smiling all the way through it.

This CD is well-proportioned, full of sonic gems and, plainly, the work of authentic artists.

Why did guitar speak to you as opposed to other instruments?

My older sister had the Beatles 45s so I got into rock first and then into jazz in high school through Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, George Benson and Pat Martino. 

Thinking of some of the giants you’ve worked with through the years; Stanley Turrentine comes to mind. What really makes a giant anyway: great hooks, feel-good melodies, technical ability, or something else?

Stanley had an identifiable voice and sound you could tell in a few notes. He played with soul and feeling and that communicated to people.

In your work as a teacher, what are the top issues students are concerned with when it comes to a career in jazz?

Well students that love this music realize it’s a lifelong endeavor that doesn’t end. They want to express themselves and bring something beautiful into the world. Having a career starts with being a great player. It is not an easy road so the love needs to be there.

When choosing a label, what do you look for; what’s most important to you?

Support. I started my own label, Strikezone Records, 10 years ago. I wanted to be able to control and have a high level of quality at every stage.

In what way(s) would you say you’ve developed the most as a player throughout your career?

Working to have my own recognizable voice. 

 Which CD of yours has the most to say, and which is the most unique in its sound?

I’ve done 30 records. I feel I always try to do something interesting and creative.

Your dream ensemble consists of what instrumentation?

I’ve been lucky to have a working band for 10 years with Jared Gold on organ and McClenty Hunter on drums. We have used sax and vibraphone to add to our sound.

My latest record is with the WDR Big Band which was a thrill. I’ve been lucky to have recorded many different dream groups. They all were special to me.

What was the inspiration behind “Blue Soul”?

I feel that title sums up the music. We played some original music as well as my arrangements of some soul classics. But everything starts with the blues.

What was it like to collaborate with Bob Mintzer?

Incredible. Bob is one of the best musicians out there, not only as a saxophonist but as an arranger and composer as well. He is also a beautiful person.

What was the highlight of producing this CD?

It was a thrill to hear my music expanded to 18 pieces and the WDR big band is one of the best in the world.

What do you most want to communicate to audiences when you perform?

Positivity, groove, depth, fun and hope.

Any new areas yet to explore?

Always. Music never ends.

For more information visit

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Dave Stryker.
© Debbie Burke 2020

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