Dave Stryker: Messin’ With Mister T


Tenor saxophonist Stanley ‘Mister T’ Turrentine (1934-2000), one among the many influential jazz musicians to emerge from Pittsburgh, PA, provides the inspiration and focus for the album under review consideration here.

Beginning in the 1960s, Mr. Turrentine’s most endearing and notable qualities as a player reached maturity and a deservedly wider audience: a confident, hometown stylistic swagger that betrayed no braggadocio, sentimentality without mawkishness, buoyantly conveyed feeling, and a superb understanding of all jazz subgenres and styles – blues, ballads, cookers, popular numbers past and present, funk, soul – combined with an ability to connect with listeners in a most pleasing, forthright and down-to-earth manner.

It was during the 1970s, however, that Stanley Turrentine attained his widest popularity as a recording artist, and it’s the music from this period onwards that provides the fodder for guitarist and erstwhile Turrentine band mate Dave Stryker’s new CD, Messin’ With Mister T. Mr. Stryker’s current working trio – with Jared Gold at the Hammond B3 organ and drummer McClenty Hunter – is joined by no fewer than ten of today’s top tenor saxophonists as well as noted percussionist Mayra Casales; these dynamic musicians proudly display their numerous personal and musical connections to the late, vaunted saxophonist in creating a most appealing, satisfying, and thoroughly swinging Turrentine celebration.

Mr. Turrentine’s late-1980’s “La Place Street” immediately and memorably captures that confident ‘Mister T’ swagger and pride-of-place feeling, with veteran tenor Houston Person, Dave Stryker and Mr. Gold sharing solo spots on this up-tempo finger-snapper of a tune. Don Braden manages the challenge from and respect for Mr. Turrentine very nicely indeed on the title-track variant “Don’t Mess With Mister T,” an enticing and assured number whose smoldering character makes it an album highlight.

Following Mr. Stryker’s adept and well-judged introduction, “In A Sentimental Mood” offers the listener the distinct pleasure of Jimmy Heath’s strong, insightful statement on the Duke’s immortal ballad. Coltrane’s “Impressions,” first taken up by Stanley in the early 1970s and again in the 1990s with Dave Stryker, is a frenetic cooker with Stryker, Chris Potter and Jared Gold generating the necessary thrust.

Two of Turrentine’s best-known numbers, “Salt Song” and “Sugar,” appearing in joyful Latin-esque and bluesy readings, respectively, and headlined by Eric Alexander and Javon Jackson, also figure prominently here.

One would be hard-pressed to imagine a better tip of the hat toward Stanley Turrentine than what is on offer here from musicians keen to recognize past masters and showcase present mastery alike.

Impressions - Dave Stryker Organ Trio Live at JEN 2012