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CD Review: The Stryker / Slagle Band 

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Let’s face it: Jazz is often perceived as pretentious or intimidating. Atonal chord changes and endless bass solos usually mean an extended trip back to the wine-and-cheese table.

Not so with Latest Outlook, the third CD from the combo led by alto saxophonist Steve Slagle and Orange County-based guitarist Dave Stryker. Together, they deliver top-flight jazz that is upbeat and captivating, never dry or blase. Hard-swinging drummer Billy Hart and bassist Jay Anderson round out the group, and the CD was recorded at Anderson’s New Paltz studio.

Tenor giant Joe Lovano makes a guest appearance on two cuts: Stryker’s totally ear-catching Charlie Parker ode, “Bird Flew,” and a soulful cover of Charles Mingus’s “Self-Portrait in Three Colors.” Stryker, who toured for over a dozen years with saxman Stanley Turrentine, is equally gifted whether playing hard bop or ballads, and Slagle’s tone is as clear as springwater.

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