Almost exactly two years ago I published my Google Map of New York’s Historic Jazz Clubs here on the site. In an effort to dig a little deeper I thought I would start a monthly series featuring one of the clubs from the map. I want to start with some of the lesser known clubs that have little to no information about them on the internet. This month: Strykers. There was a nice little feature on Strykers and the UWS jazz scene in the New York Times in 1973. I’m not sure if there has been one since then. The NYT article describes Strykers as “an immaculate little bar with a working brick‐faced fireplace…tucked so unobtrusively into the bottom of brownstone at 103 West 86th Street that new customers are constantly telling Olivia Taylor, the soft‐voiced manager and part‐owner of the room, ‘We live just around the corner, but we didn’t even know you were here.'” The article also mentions that the name Strykers comes from the now forgotten name of the neighborhood around 86th and Columbus, Strykers Bay and opened in 1970. The club was gone by the end of the 1970s and currently houses a spa:
Lee Konitz, who still lives right down the street, was a regular performer here on Wednesday and Thursday nights in the 1970s, as was Chet Baker. Guitarists Joe Puma and Chuck Wayne had a weekly duo engagement. Another listing from New York magazine shows that a Bill Mintz headlined here in 1975. I asked Billy about the club:
It was a small bar, I had a steady Thursday for 2 years with the Eddie Daniels Quartet:
Eddie, me, Rick Laird on bass and Andy Laverne on Fender Rhodes…Then that quartet made a record called Brief Encounters which Rudy Van Gelder engineered. Strykers was a great moment in late 70’s jazz in New York.
From Bill Crow:
I played there several times with Joe Puma, and once with Joe and Chuck Wayne. I seem to remember it being run by a tough lady with a big dog. I don’t remember when it closed.
Drummer Steve Little also remembers playing there with Joe Puma and Chuck Wayne:
These kids were staring at me while we played. It was the middle of the rock era, and and they had never seen anyone play brushes before!
Ted Brown recalls rehearsing for a gig at Strykers with Lee Konitz around 1976 and showing up only to find that the club had closed. It apparently reopened a little while later but only for a year or so.
Lee himself fondly remembers the club, saying that he “enjoyed playing there in different contexts, finally with a bigger band.”
That bigger band was the Lee Konitz Nonet, a great but short lived band that released a couple of records and in fact recorded one tribute to Strykers, “Strykers Dues.”
I’m getting the impression that there was no piano in Strykers!
From a 1976 NYT listing:
Stryker’s is a small jazz club whose roster of performers changes frequently during the week. Tonight, the pianist David Lahm, his trio and Janet Lawson, a vocalist, will appear. There is a $2.50 music charge, and beverage.; begin—with beer —at $2. Information: 8748754, and you may have to keep trying.
Lenny Kaye describes seeing Chet Baker there:
In the mid ’70s, I went to a small cellar jazz club on West 86th Street called Stryker’s to see him. There, with a bare minimum of notes, hardly breathing through his horn, he made every inflection count, drawing from his tortured soul the mea culpa of his many transgressions.
Here is an account from drummer Artt Frank’s site:
The following quotes were made by Chet Baker, during an interview I conducted with him at Stryker’s Pub in NYC in 1974: “Artt’s been with me since my comeback in Hollywood in 1968. I love the way he plays, man. ‘Specially the way he plays brushes. Shelly (Manne) was great too… but he didn’t have Artt’s transmission… you know… ? Artt’s the only cat I know who can play brushes at stick level, and at any tempo! Then there’s Harold (Danko), and Cameron (Brown), and those three cats are the most swingin’, sensitive and supportive players I’ve ever worked with. And for the way I play here (Stryker’s pub), in a club format, I like to stretch out and do a lot of burnin’ tempos. And it’s a great comfort to know those three cats are always there. They make it easy for me to respond. It’s real comfortable man, you know….?
I would love to hear more from anyone who remembers Strykers and might possibly even have some pictures as I can’t seem to find any from when it was open. Hopefully this article gives some insight onto what was happening on the UWS in the 1970s jazz scene.