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Speak Low CD

Play it Where it Lays

Kerry Strayer Quartet w/special guest Gary Foster



  1. 3625 Central Kerry Strayer
  2. Blues O’Mighty Johnny Hodges
  3. Perfectly Frank Kerry Strayer
  4. Jammin’ at the Kirk Kerry Strayer
  5. Funk In Deep Freeze Hank Mobley
  6. Mentor Kerry Strayer
  7. All Too Soon Duke Ellington
  8. Friends Again Lanny Morgan
  9. Play It Where It Lays Gary Foster
  10. Bertha the Dragoness Jimmy Knepper

From the liner notes:

When Gary and I recorded “Mentor” with my septet we also recorded one piece, 3625 Central, as a quintet. It was a line that I wrote to the chord changes of Out of Nowhere for an assignment when I was studying with Gary during my days as a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music. Gary was an Artist in Residence at that institution for an unprecedented 16 years, from 1984-2000. I had the good fortune of being one of his first students during that tenure. We didn’t include 3625 Central on “Mentor” as we had more than enough septet tracks to fill the disc. However, I really liked the track and approached Gary about doing a quintet recording. The next time he was in the area, we recorded the remainder of this CD.

The late Frank Mantooth is the pianist on 3625 Central. I had the pleasure of working with Frank at the Great Plains Jazz Camp for several years and recorded two CDs, “Speak Low” and “Mentor”, with him as pianist. Frank is greatly missed by the jazz community and by all who loved him. 3625 Central and Perfectly Frank are dedicated to his memory.

The Music

3625 Central, as explained above, is a line I wrote to the changes of Out of Nowhere. There is a Lennie Tristano line to those changes that Gary has his students learn called 317 East 32nd Street, which was the address of Lennie’s teaching studio in New York at the time. Following suit, 3625 Central was my address in Kansas City at the time it was written.

Blues O’Mighty, by Johnny Hodges, is from Oliver Nelson’s “More Blues and the Abstract Truth”. I’ve always liked the line and that recording was my introduction to Pepper Adams.

Perfectly Frank was written in memory of Frank Mantooth shortly after his death. When we rehearsed for the recording of “Mentor” Frank came up to me on a break and said, “You frequently put the altered notes in the top voice. I don’t know if I like quite so much of that. I tend to hide them in the texture a little more.” After the first day of recording he told me, “That’s growing on me. I see what you’re up to. I should do more of that myself.” I took that as a great compliment as I’ve always been a big fan of Frank’s writing. In honor of that exchange I attempted writing a tune with as many altered notes in the melody as possible, just for Frank.

When the music director at our church (The John Knox Presbyterian Kirk) is on vacation she frequently asks my jazz quartet to play for worship services. On one such occasion I decided to see how astute the congregation was and wrote Jammin’ at the Kirk (written to the changes of Pennies from Heaven) for the offertory. Much to my surprise several congregation members picked up on the musical reference. I subsequently have done several jazz concerts there and have found them to be very knowledgeable and receptive jazz fans as well as good friends. God bless Presbyterians.

Funk In Deep Freeze is one of Gary’s favorite Hank Mobley compositions. Chosen for it’s soulful melody and engaging chord changes, it has a built in harmony part that is perfect for a two horn line up.

Mentor is a reference to our previous collaboration, the afore mentioned septet CD of the same title. On that disc we recorded my arrangement of one of Gary’s original lines, Warne-ing, written for Warne Marsh to the changes of What is This Thing Called Love. In the middle of the arrangement I wrote a unison line for the two saxes and bass. Here that line is lifted from the arrangement and offered as a melody in its own right.

All Too Soon is one of my favorite Ellington ballads. I first heard it on “Unknown Sessions”, a small band Ellington recording that is a must listen for fans of Harry Carney.

Friends Again is another line that Gary brought to the session. Written by his friend and colleague Lanny Morgan, one of the truly great alto soloists, it is a great line to a favored standard.

Play It Where It Lays is an original composition by Gary Foster written for Keith Cox in appreciation for his friendship and support.

Bertha the Dragoness is a Jimmy Knepper line written to the changes of Sweet Georgia Brown. One might not expect a trombonist to pen such a technical line, but then Jimmy Knepper’s music isn’t about what one would expect.

I hope you enjoy listening to this music as much as we enjoyed playing it.

– Kerry Strayer