REVIEW: Stryker-Slagle Band – Latest Outlook

The Stryker-Slagle Band’s new release, Latest Outlook, due out soon on the Zoho label, is the real thing, folks. Talented jazz musicians at the top of their game, playing together with a confidence gained by long-time collaboration, and offering an outstanding mix of music that should appeal to every fan of good jazz.

Guitarist Dave Stryker and saxman Steve Slagle are both 20 year veterans of the modern jazz scene, with countless albums to their credit, sometimes together and sometimes apart, as either leaders or sidemen. This is their third album with their group known as the Stryker-Slagle Band, which also includes Billy Hart on drums and Jay Anderson on bass, and it follows last year’s release, Live At The Jazz Standard.

Stryker and Slagle are perfectly at home in bebop and post-bop, blues, and modern hard swing. Slagle’s impressive skills on both soprano and alto sax, coupled with Stryker’s abilities on guitar, give the group the flexibility to go in any direction they choose, and that’s exhibited to perfection with the tunes on this album. They were all written by one or the other of the duo — except the Charles Mingus classic, “Self Portrait In Three Colors”, which was probably my favorite on the album. (Not that I’m criticizing the song-writing ability of Stryker or Slagle — both do a good job.)

One of the best cuts on the album is the first, “Knew Hold”, which explores the interaction of the two leads in a song that courses through several mood changes. And for a change of pace, try “Hartland”, which starts with Stryker’s soft guitar and flows smoothly into a lyrical solo by Slagle, who has picked up his soprano sax for this one.

The band is joined on two tunes by saxophonist Joe Lovano, a frequent collaborator who is a well-known jazz artist in his own right. Lovano shows up blowing a hot tenor sax on “Bird Flew”, an ironic tribute to alto sax great Charlie Parker, and he’s also heard to good effect on “Dear Mr. Hicks”, a tribute to pianist John Hicks, who died in 2006. The pace of the song is measured at first, but that’s by design and it builds slowly into a really outstanding example of modern swing music.

Every cut on the album is a good listen, and that means a strong recommendation. Buy it – you’ll like it.

1. Knew Hold 4:56
2. Latest Outlook 7:04
3. Bird Flew 8:10
4. Hartland 7:50
5. Dear Mr. Hicks 11:40
6. Self-Portrait In Three Colors 6:58
7. Turning Point 8:34
8. In Just Time 6:00
Buy the album

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