Dave Stryker: Eight Track Christmas

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This years’ Christmas album comes from Dave Stryker and his Eight Track band featuring:

  • Dave Stryker – guitar
  • Stefon Harris - vibraphone
  • Jared Gold – organ
  • McClenty Hunter – drums

The name of the band and the music they like to play comes from the time when an 8-Track player was a popular device. The group has released three very successful albums with songs from the 60′s and 70′s and tie in on the tradition of producing an album for the holiday season.

This album is not the classical Christmas CD with a lot of emotions, instead it is the cool buddy for the hectic season. An excellent organ trio plus an incredible vibraphone player guarantee the perfect groove.

The album starts with “This Christmas” from Donny Hathaway, quite cool and relaxed with a little bit of jingle bells and a bluesy Dave Stryker, perfectly played. The sound of this band is really exceptional and the vibraphone adds the unique note to the organ trio.

The traditional “What Child Is This?” comes next. This tune is arranged with a pushing 6/8 meter. Laurels are here for McClenty Hunter on drums who gives this song the special touch.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, another traditional is the next song, arranged with a heavy groove and one more time the hint to listen to the drummer precisely.

The album continues with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” one of my favorite Christmas tunes. The end of the melody is played in unison by guitar (in octaves) and vibraphone which sounds really warm and soft but very jazzy.

“Soulful Frosty” is another highlight of the album, it is a melange of the two songs “Soulful Strut” and “Frosty The Snowman” very soulful indeed and very happy with the Frosty part where the compulsory jingle bells are added.

The Charlie Brown song “Christmas Time Is Here” by Vince Guaraldi, a beautiful ballad comes next. Guitar and vibraphone trade the melody, very soft and easy which gives this nice melody the space it needs to unfold in full. Very tasty background by drums and organ.

An up-tempo “Sleigh Ride” shows the band in jam-style with solos from all musicians.

“Blue Christmas” is the next song and it comes as an old-fashioned 12/8 groove with bluesy solos. My highlight of this song is the organ solo which ends in full gear pulling out all stops plus the Leslie speaker. Killer sound.

“We Three Kings” is another highlight of this album. This song sounds like a modal jazz tune with a breathtaking guitar solo.

The album ends with “O Tannenbaum” (with Steve Nelson on vibraphone).  This song was released before and shows a hard swinging band enjoying to play and to improvise over this famous traditional.

‘Eight Track Christmas’ is my choice for this holiday season, it is quite different from what you hear and what is recorded for this occasion, but since it is so cool relaxed and swinging Jazz music it shows much better the “true” spirit of Christmas then any other new album I have heard this year.

Enjoy, relax and have an eggnog on Dave and his fabulous Eight Track band.

More information about Dave Stryker, his projects and tour dates are found on his website:
https://www.davestryker.com

And finally a playlist of this album on Spotify:

Haftor Medbøe: Minor Is The New Major

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Subcontinental records from Bangalore has released a beautiful live album of Norwegian guitarist and composer Haftor Medbøe. Haftor lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland and the concert was recorded there back in July 2013. Funded by the Scottish Government Haftor was able to assemble a band of musicians that he’d always wanted to work with. From Norway came pianist Espen Eriksen and trumpeter Gunnar Halle, and from Denmark bassist Eva Malling and drummer Benita Haastrup.

Haftor has more details: “On the night of the performance we were joined by Scottish/Polish saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski for one track. He had another gig at almost the same time so immediately after playing one song he had to run half a mile to be on time for his other performance. The band rehearsed all-new material for an hour on the day before the gig and spent that evening bonding over dinner and some beers”.

The album starts with “New Happy” featuring Konrad Wiszniewski on saxophone. He plays the first solo and he receives excellent support from the band so we feel the energy he puts into his playing.  this solo is already my first highlight on the album.

After saying goodbye to Konrad With “Run, Konrad, run”, the band continues as a quintet with “Bruichladdich10″ which refers to the whisky with the same name.  The beautiful melody is played softly by Gunnar Halle on trumpet, piano and guitar have solo parts before we hear an open and very rhythmic outro dominated by the trumpet. The free and open playing culminates in a grand finale.

“Minor is the New Major”, the title song of the album comes next.  A soft song with another great melody presented by trumpet and guitar. Haftor plays the solo on this song with a distorted guitar sound and a free rhythm section accompanying him. Very interesting to listen to the ideas of the band members. Espen Eriksen takes the lead after the guitar solo and the song ends with the melody played again.

“More Viking Than You” starts with a bass solo. The melody is played initially by trumpet (with some effects) and piano only. This song sounds like made for a movie with a strong piano and a trumpet floating over the rhythm section. Breathtaking. The solo goes to Haftor Medbøe. He stays calm and soft and the floating trumpet returns which keeps the visual character of the song.

“Steaks & Muscles” comes next. The intro goes to the piano, the melody is played by the guitar and this song modulates nicely between major and minor chords. Piano and bass play a striding riff which is used by the guitar as base to improvise before the solo becomes free and open again. The trumpet sound is electronically altered which creates some very interesting and unusual effects.

“Broadcast For The World” is a beautiful and very harmonic ballad. The melody is played by trumpet and guitar with great support by Espen Eriksen on piano who also plays a brillant solo. This song is definitely the highlight of the album, it is so easy to follow and it is played with great sensitivity and aesthetics.

The album ends with “These Little Things” which is based on a interesting guitar riff. The band shows again how precise they can play and how perfect they can change their dynamics.

The compositions from Haftor Medbøe have all great and easy to follow melodies and the band received a lot of freedom to take the material and improvise rather freely over it without stretching these improvisational parts into excess length. The music hasn’t collected any dust in this six years between recording and releasing and you feel the fun and energy in this album. Thanks to Subcontinental Records who convinced Haftor Medbøe to release this live recording.

Haftor is not only a great composer and an excellent musician, he is also an internationally published researcher in the field of jazz studies and has presented conference papers throughout Europe. If you want to learn more about his work, his projects and his music please check out his website:
http://www.haftormedboe.com/

And finally a playlist of this album on Spotify: