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During much of this disc Pike comes across as something of an improvisatory lightweight, and it’s not the ethereal luminosity inherent in his instrument that is totally to blame. The airy Bossa rhythms that support the majority of tracks do little to help him in this regard and his arrangements emphasize a featherweight Happy Hour feeling. A further distraction is Pike’s sporadic vocalizations atop his improvisations, which make it seem as if he is sounding them out to insure his mallets strike the right slats. He’s also heavy-footed on his sustain pedals making ample use of his instrument motor and in turn coating each tune in a glossy sheen of tinkling sentimentality.
So these are the negatives, but what of the positives? According to the liners Pike was a child prodigy, playing with the Detroit Symphony from the tender age of eleven. Later he joined Paul Bley’s band with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, and was eventually replaced by none other than Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry! But rather than corroborating that early brilliance this disc goes more to show that technical acumen doesn’t always translate into inspired invention. Somewhere along the way Pike took a wrong turn into bromidic pop jazz and sadly the two albums on this disc are culled from this later period.
On the first session Terry, Burrell, and the rest of the rhythm section resign themselves rather well to the saccharine charts while still turning in engaging solos. Burrell’s expressive statement on “Sono” is one such example and the smooth-textured sonorities of Terry’s flugelhorn also fit well into the tropically tinged cocktail, particularly on the leisurely “Philumba.” As atmospheric mood music in the vein of Martin Denny or perhaps more appropriately, Arthur Lyman these tunes work well and it’s easy to imagine any of them being piped through the speakers of a Holiday Inn Lounge on Waikiki circa 62’ (when these sessions were waxed) as garishly garbed tourists guzzle down Mai Tais and nibble at Poo-Poo platters.
The second session benefits from a slightly expanded ensemble and a switch in gears to Caribbean influences. But the arrangements remain tepid as the group ranges over pop fare like “La Bamba” and “Limbo Rock.” Wright’s reeds recall a inviting Bud Shank flavor, but his skills are largely wasted on endlessly circular vamps as on the reading of the former tune. Abdul-Malik is similarly stymied. Relegated to laying down a two beat bass ostinato for the duration of “Calypso Blues” his abilities are sorely under utilized. The percussion team of Correo and Barretto breathes some life into the session and contributes enlivening and extended breaks on several songs, but overall though even with obvious talents like Flanagan, Raney, and Duvivier in residence it’s largely a write off.
Track Listing: Sambolero/ Sono/ Serenidade/ Carnival Samba/ Philumba/ Melvalita/ Ginha/ Sansalito/ La Bamba/ My Little Suede Shoes/ Matilda, Matilda/ Mambo Bounce/ Limbo Rock/ Calypso Blues/ Cattin
Personnel: Dave Pike- vibes, marimba; Clark Terry- flugelhorn; Kenny Burrell- guitar; Jose Paulo- cabasa, bandero; Chris White- bass; Rudy Collins- drums; Leo Wright- flute, alto saxophone; Jimmy Raney- guitar; Tommy Flanagan- piano; George Duvivier- bass; Ahmed Abdul-Malik- bass; William Correo; Ray Barretto- conga.