Whether he's leading his own group, Blue to the Bone, or playing as a sideman to great jazz musicians like vocalist Kevin Mahogany, guitarist Dave Stryker's style has strong blues and soul-drenched undercurrents.
Stryker was raised in Omaha, NB, but has made New York City and suburban northern New Jersey his home since 1980. Stryker began playing guitar at age 10, and by the time he was 12, he'd discovered the blues. He learned to play from listening to records, and recalled the first record he bought as a youngster was Cream's Disraeli Gears. That legendary recording showcases the talents of a young Eric Clapton. Within months, Stryker was paying attention to Freddie King, Albert King, and B.B. King, and the innovative ways that all three guitar greats were making blues accessible to white audiences. (One could credit innovative promoters like Bill Graham, too, for Graham often paired blues musicians with rock acts in his '60s and '70s concerts in San Francisco and New York.) By the time Stryker was in high school, he began paying more attention to jazz, but, having been raised in the '60s, he paid as much attention to then evolving blues-rock guitarists like Johnny Winter as he did to serious jazz improvisers like Miles Davis.
Brother Jack McDuff, the late Hammond B-3 organist, gave Stryker his first big break when he had the chance to go on the road with his group in 1984. He spent the next two years traveling all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe with McDuff's blues-heavy soul-jazz group. In 1986, he met saxophonist Stanley Turrentine at a club in Harlem. Stryker spent the next decade touring with Turrentine, where he really got his chops together, coming into his own as a unique guitar player with his own distinctive approach.
Stryker has recorded more than a dozen releases under his own name. For blues fans, two for the Denmark-based SteepleChase Records are worth seeking out: Blue to the Bone a 1996 release, and Blue to the Bone III, a 2002 release. Both recordings showcase his playing, as well as that of his bandmates, in a variety of genres: blues guitar-based swing music, New Orleans funk, soul-jazz, and blues-rock. He pays homage to his guitar influences on both recordings, including Freddie King and legendary vocalist Chester Burnett, better known as Howlin' Wolf.
Stryker credited his time on the road with two old school veteran musicians, McDuff and Turrentine, as being "the kind of education that's just not available anymore. A lot of guys never get that chance and it was a really good opportunity."
Given his strong résumé and abilities as a bandleader and composer, there's no reason to expect that Stryker will be slowing down his prolific pace of recording anytime soon. Fans of blues-based jazz can hear Stryker's playing on recordings by Kansas City-based vocalist Kevin Mahogany for Warner Bros., but they can also explore Stryker's jazzier dimensions with recordings like his tribute to trumpeter and composer Davis, Shades of Miles. ~ Richard Skelly