Now here’s a winning hand: Dave Stryker's organ trio, ten of the world's finest tenor saxophone players, and the legacy of Stanley Turrentine. You could call it a tribute to the late tenor great, but given Stryker's audacious title, Mister T looms here more like an enduring challenge than an icon of past glories. The Pittsburgh native died 15 years ago, but he remains synonymous with soulfulness.
Messin' with Mister T is Dave Stryker’s personal homage to Turrentine, whom he toured with for over a decade and recorded with twice. Dave says that being hired by Stanley was a “real validation” of his playing, and he’s had it in mind “ever since he passed to do something like this tribute.” One sure sign that the time was right is that everyone he asked to appear on the date came “immediately on board. Stanley meant so much to all of us.” Deciding who would play which tune fell into place without a hitch, too, as did the material, which basically reflects Turrentine’s set lists from the years Stryker toured with him.
The greater challenge that Stryker faced on Messin’ with Mister T was to pay proper respects to his mentor while still managing to make a “Dave Stryker record.” I’d say he’s succeeded from start to finish, and Chris Potter, who joins him here for a phenomenal take on “Impressions,” knows why. “There’s no better person to pay tribute to Stanley than Dave because the musical values Stanley always stood for— swing, soulfulness, taste, melody, and beautiful sound— are carried forward in everything that Dave plays.”
Messin' with Mister T is the latest in the brilliant series of recordings that Stryker has led over the past 25 years, and a follow-up to his hugely successful Eight Track (Strikezone 8812). The guitarist seems never at a loss for inspiration and the array of styles he commands and the flow of ideas he executes is truly impressive. Dave says that Turrentine’s influence was especially strong in showing him how important it was to establish a sound of his own, and to “communicate to people. Stanley had an audience, and he never left them behind.”
Messin’ with Mister T is winning hand indeed, as Dave Stryker has put together a joyous and swinging celebration of the music of Stanley Turrentine with 10 of the greatest tenor players on the scene today.