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Dave Stryker - As We Are (Strikezone)

5 January 2022

Dave Stryker has been a professional musician since the late 1970s, but has somehow never produced what he calls his “dream project” – an album with strings – until now. As We Are features the guitarist joined by a string quartet and an all-star band. Bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, late of jazz great Wayne Shorter’s quartet, anchor the rhythm section, while pianist and former Stryker protegé Julian Shore supplies the comping and countermelodies. That lineup alone would cause heads to turn – Blades and Patitucci work that sympatico telepathy that comes from performing together for twenty years, giving the leader a fluid foundation on which to fly, and Shore plays off Stryker like he was born to it. But it’s the strings that really elevate this record. Many jazz musicians find themselves overwhelmed by lush arrangements (courtesy of Shore) like these, but Stryker finds the magic balance that calibrates the music to beauty instead of bathos. Credit the rhythm section’s relaxed swing and Stryker’s singing lines, as well as violinist Sara Caswell’s own thrilling solos. The mellow blues “Soul Friend,” the vibrant swinger “One Thing At a Time,” the soulful ballad “As We Are” and a spectacular cover of Nick Drake’s “River Man” provide easy highlights of a consistently enthralling collection.