Eight Track, released last month from guitarist Dave Stryker, is a journey into territory not the norm for a jazz album: ‘70s pop. Although every once in a while, an artist will venture to work with pop and rock material, more often than not, they were met with critical sneering – think Ramsey Lewis or, grudging praise, think Wes Montgomery. The Great American Songbook, jazz classics, and original compositions have been the stock in trade for the normal jazz album.
Not Stryker. As he explains in his liner notes, he has often included a pop hit or two in his recordings and his live sets, because when he was learning his trade, the old hands played them, and besides, it gives him a way of connecting with his audience. A full album of pop tunes though, that is something different and that is the concept for Eight Track. And it works. The eight track may have gone the way of the rotary telephone and the typewriter, but the music still resonates, at least with those of us who were around at the time.
There are 10 tunes on the album coming from the ’70s, ranging from hits by Pink Floyd and Glen Campbell to Curtis Mayfield and The Jacksons. The repertoire suggests Stryker’s fairly eclectic taste in nostalgic fare, and it all makes for fine mainstream jazz played with obvious affection. Leading his usual trio of Jared Gold on the Hammond B3 organ and drummer McClenty Hunter, and joined by Stefon Harris on vibraphone, he opens the album with “I’ll Be Around,” a tune made famous from The Spinners. Fine versions of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” Hair’s “Aquarius,” a pop hit via The Fifth Dimension, and The Association’s “Never My Love” add to the fun. The work on Roger Waters’ Floyd classic “Money” is a blast, and there are some sweet solo sounds on Stevie Wonder’s “Superwoman.”
Truly, however, for any refugee from back in the day, there isn’t a track on the album that won’t bring a smile to the face and a tap or two to the foot.
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