"Routes" is a new release by an expanded edition of The Stryker/Slagle Band. To guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist/flautist Steve Slagle, along with bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer McLenty Hunter are added John Clark on french horn, Billy Drewes on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Clark Gayton on trombone and tuba, and Bill O'Connell on piano (including Fender Rhodes). The full eight pieces are heard on six of the nine performances. Of the remaining three, one is a sextet, one is a quintet and one features the quartet. Stryker and Slagle each contribute four compositions and the ninth piece is from Charles Mingus (Slagle is a significant contributor to the Mingus Big Band), and one can detect Mingus' influence in the hard driving performances contained in this recording.
Certainly the driving "City of Angels," Slagle's salute to his home town, establishes this feel, with the horn voicings contributing to the lively solos from the leaders. Drewes' bass clarinet riff and O'Connell's floating fender rhodes set the mood on Stryker's 'Nothin' Wrong With It," with the interplay and counterpoint between Slagle's serpentine soprano sax and the bass clarinet with Slagle, and then Stryker soloing. The ensemble does a lovely rendition of Slagle's arrangement of the Charles Mingus ballad, "Self-portrait In Three Colors," with the leaders and bassist showcased. Slagle's "Fort Greene Scene," with O'Connell on fender rhodes, evokes Les McCann in the driving performance. Gayton is featured on trombone and tuba for Stryker's "Great Plains" while Slagle's flute adds coloring to the sounds The quartet performance "Extensity," is a lively blues-rooted "burner" quoting annotator Rick Simpson, while "Gardena," another homage to his home town of Los Angeles from Slagle, is another composition that suggests a definite Mingus influence (hardly unexpected with Slagle's time with the Mingus Big band), with excellent solos from O'Donnell, Slagle, and Stryker and fresh support from the horns.
The closing "Lickety Split Lounge," is a brisk bluesy shuffle named after the lounge where Stryker auditioned for Jack McDuff and joined the legendary organist's group that included Slagle with some hot blowing from the leaders, O'Donnell and trombonist Gayton. It provides a lively coda to this strong recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally ran in the March-April Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 365). Here is a video of The Stryker/Slagle Band (Expanded) playing "Great Plains."