Guitarist Dave Stryker Along Bob Mintzer Fronts the WDR Big Band for ‘Blue Soul’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Fans of blues and soul should love this one, whether they’re jazz fans or not. Those of us old enough to remember the great CTI albums of the ‘70s will welcome this sound as the great saxophonist Bob Mintzer arranges and conducts a set of recognizable tunes associated with Marvin Gaye, Prince, Glen Campbell, and Stanley Turrentine, along with one of his originals and three from blues/jazz guitarist Dave Stryker on Blue Soul. This is a similar formula that made the CTI label so popular in its day. Strkyer is prominent on every selection while Mintzer solos on tenor for three of them. The two front the vaunted 16-piece WDR Big Band.

Germany’s WDR Big Band is a renowned, historic ensemble, featuring an evolving line-up of some of the country’s best musicians. A function of the German public broadcasting institution Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln based in Cologne, the WDR Big Band are musical ambassadors charged with promoting jazz and culture at home and around the world. Over their seven-plus-decades career, the WDR have released numerous albums on their own, featuring such guest artists as Ron CarterPaquito D’RiveraArturo Sandoval, and others. Recognized internationally, they have drawn high praise, including a German Jazz Award for their work on arranger Vince Mendoza‘s 1992 album Jazzpaña, and a Grammy Award for their 2005 Brecker Brothers collaboration Some Skunk Funk. Although much of the WDR Big Band‘s performances take place in Germany, they often tour the globe.  In 2016, Mintzer took over as director. That same year, they paired with drummer Billy Hart for The Broader Picture. Arranger Mendoza continued his long-running association with the ensemble on 2017’s Homecoming.

After several appearances as a guest with Dave Stryker’s Organ Trio, Mintzer had the idea to arrange some of Dave’s music to feature him with the ensemble. Bob thought Stryker’s hip takes on ‘70s pop tunes from his Eight Track series as well as his originals would be a good fit. In March of 2019, Dave was invited to Germany for a week of rehearsing, recording, and performing with the WDR Big Band, the result of which is Blue Soul. Stryker, one of the top jazz guitarists in the blues/jazz arena, got his start with Jack McDuff and Stanley Turrentine and to date has 30 albums to his name including the recent top seller Eight Track III. Mintzer has many of his own recordings as well as long associations with the late, great Jaco Pastorius, the Yellowjackets and many others.

Stryker and Mintzer assembled a varied program including Bob’s orchestrations of Dave’s versions of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” and “What’s Going On,” Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman.” Bob also expanded Dave’s originals “Came to Believe,” “Shadowboxing” and “Blues Strut” as well as contributing his own “Aha.” Stanley Turrentine’s “Stan’s Shuffle” closes out this explosive, guitar-meets-big-band recording, the kind that we’ve rarely seen in recent years. Billy Test, who often solos on organ (see below) is so good that he almost deserves as much ink as the two frontmen. 

Personnel: 

Dave Stryker – Guitar Bob Mintzer – Conductor and Arranger, Tenor Sax #2, #5, #9
Wim Both, Rob Bruynen, Andy Haderer, Ruud Breuls – Trumpets Ludwig Nuss, Raphael Klemm, Andy Hunter -Trombones Mattis Cederberg – Bass Trombone Johan Horlen, Karolina Strassmayer-Alto Sax
Olivier Peters, Paul Heller-Tenor Sax Jens Neufang – Baritone Sax Billy Test – Piano and Organ John Goldsby – Bass Hans Dekker – Drums

Solos:

Trouble Man (Marvin Gaye) Dave Stryker-guitar, Billy Test – Organ Aha (Bob Mintzer) Bob Mintzer -Tenor Sax, Dave Stryker – Guitar

*What’s Going On (Al Cleveland, Renaldo Benson, Marvin Gaye) Dave Stryker – Guitar, Karolina Strassmayer – Alto Sax, Billy Test – Organ *Came To Believe – (Dave Stryker) Dave Stryker – Guitar, Johan Horlen – Alto Sax, Hans Dekker – Drums *Blues Strut – (Dave Stryker) Dave Stryker – Guitar, Bob Mintzer – Tenor Sax, Billy Test – Organ

*When Doves Cry (Prince Rogers Nelson) Dave Stryker – Guitar, Johan Horlen – Alto Sax, Hans Dekker – Drums

*Wichita Lineman (Jimmy Webb) Andy Hunter – Trombone, Dave Stryker – Guitar

*Shadowboxing – (Dave Stryker) Paul Keller – Tenor Sax, Dave Stryker – Guitar, Hans Dekker – Drums

*Stan’s Shuffle (Stanley Turrentine) Bob Mintzer – Tenor Sax, Dave Stryker – Guitar

 

 

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