In the back room of Bear’s Place Dave Stryker counted down from three, and music filled the air. All four players in the Dave Stryker Quartet — also full-time or adjunct professors in IU’s Jacobs School of Music — had come to perform as part of Bear’s weekly “Jazz Fables” series.
Stryker and his jazz quartet performed Thursday in Bear’s Place. The group opened with two of Stryker’s original compositions, “Came To Believe” and “Every Dark Street.”
Stryker, who has released 26 CDs, said he remembers time spent in Harlem, New York City, with saxophonist Stanley Turrentine as a key influence on his style.
"‘Messin’ with Mr. T’— that’s for Stanley,” the guitarist said of his album released last year.
As Thursday night’s show progressed, numbers became more convoluluted and solos longer. Drummer Steve Houghton, eyes closed, played solely by feel.
“We just try to play together as much as we can,” said Houghton, referring to himself and the quartet’s saxophonist, Walter Smith III, who splits his time between Bloomington and Los Angeles to manage a recording career.
The members of the quartet this week included Smith on third-tenor saxophone, Stryker as guitarist, Jeremy Allen on bass and Houghton playing the drums.
“Jazz Fables” creator and director David Miller then introduced Smith’s recent composition “Apollo.”
At a point in Smith’s solo, audience member Ed Perkins passed a note to his wife seated beside him. “These guys are really good,” it read. Perkins, a Bloomington resident, said he’d long enjoyed the “Jazz Fables” series after retirement.
“It’s hard to believe the level of talent you see here, and tonight?” Perkins said. “These guys are incredible recording artists but also educators. They’re carrying on the tradition to students across the street at Jacobs.”
Miller said the series has run almost every Thursday night since its inception in 1989 and offers excellent exposure to undergraduate and graduate jazz performers .
“This is one of the finest jazz groups that has come together from the IU faculty,” Miller said. “The collaborations that happen — I mean, it’s incredible. It would be impossible to do this without the Jazz Studies Program’s cooperation.”
Miller — who is the master of ceremonies for the performances - said maintaining a relationship with the Jazz Studies Program since 1969 has built up the series to what it is today. He said Bear’s proximity to the Jacobs school has also been an important factor for word-of-mouth advertisement about the series within the school.
“We’re still here 27 years later, so we must be doing something right,” Miller said.
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