Guitarist Dave Stryker and alto and soprano saxophonist and flutist Steve Slagle have been musical partners for 30 years, performing mostly in a quartet context with bass and drums. With “Routes” (Strikezone) they have expanded their instrumentation on certain tunes to include French horn (played by John Clark), tenor saxophone and bass clarinet (Billy Drewes), trombone and tuba (Clark Gayton) and acoustic and electric piano (Bill O’Connell). Other tunes include variations on this instrumentation. Bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer McClenty Hunter anchor the rhythm section throughout.
Stryker and Slagle are strong, soulful players. This is nowhere more evident than on the guitarist’s “Lickety Split Lounge,” a shuffle blues with an irresistible drum beat and earthy solos by the leaders. Some of the more colorful ensemble writing occurs on Stryker’s jaunty “Nothin’ Wrong With It,” where we hear Drewes soloing on bass clarinet and Stryker on soprano saxophone. There isalso Charles Mingus’ “Self-Portrait in Three Colors,” a warm arrangement that showcases the leaders’ skills as ballad soloists. “Great Plains,” by Stryker, utilizes Gayton’s tuba to good effect. Slagle’s uptempo “Extensivity” returns to the original Stryker/Slagle quartet sound with fiery playing by all hands. The variety heard throughout this album is enticing.
Correspondent Owen Cordle
Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded