Stryker/Slagle Band

Stryker-Slagle Band

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Though they had been collaborating on each others' records since 1986, the self-titled release from the Stryker-Slagle Band is the first true joint venture by guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist Steve Slagle. The long lead-up to the debut proves worthwhile. The session features a well-developed band playing original music crafted to take advantage of the band's talents. The songs range from the Latin ballad "Tudo Muda" to the torrid bop streaker "Long Gone" (both by Slagle). Stryker's "Nothin' Wrong With It" serves as a fitting opener. The melody has a folk-pop quality that seems to beg for lyrics. But the catchy tune belies the harmonic and rhythmic sophistication underneath. These complexities wrapped in melody launch the leaders into characteristic solos. Slagle's spot is urgent, probing. At heart a bebopper, he adds a touch of daring to his work that's so often missing from those who maintain that venerable style. Stryker's guitar musings have, at times, a quizzical quality. His lines shimmer as he considers all sides of the material. He punctuates this cogitation with slashing chords. Stryker and Slagle's long association, and their experience touring with this band -- drummer Tim Horner and bassist Bill Moring have both been with them for six years -- is evident throughout the session. The solos by the frontmen have a tag-team quality. On "Child's Play," for instance, the guitarist picks up the thread of Slagle's closing melodic thread and weaves it into the fabric of his own improvisation. And they articulate even the most tortuous unison lines like "High Life" with single-minded aplomb, at once precise and spontaneous. Horner and Moring provide highly responsive support. That's just one of the many virtues of maintaining a working band so well demonstrated by this debut disc.

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