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The Dave Pike Set: Live at the Philharmonie

John Kelman By

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While vibraphonist Gary Burton has garnered greater acclaim, it's hard to listen to The Dave Pike Set's Live at the Philharmonie—originally released on MPS in 1970 and finally making it to CD—and not draw some comparisons.



At the time of this 1969 Berlin recording, both vibraphonists were working with similar line-ups, including guitarists conversant in the jazz vernacular but also exploring other avenues including rock, folk and Indian music. Americans both (Pike was living in Germany, where he would remain until 1973); the vibraphonists were similarly intrigued by concepts of musical cross-pollination and amplification of their instruments.



They were also exploring complex compositional constructs, including shifting meters and abstract harmonies while still providing plenty of solo space. But while Burton was (and still is) a remarkably astute judge of material, he's never been particularly prolific—choosing, instead, to solicit writing from group members and trusted sources including composer/arranger Mike Gibbs, and pianists Chick Corea and Carla Bley. Pike, on the other hand, largely featured original material—in this case, with considerable input from German guitarist Volker Kriegel, whose acclaim as a European jazz/rock progenitor never resulted in similar status in North America.



Despite its brief 32-minute duration, Live at the Philharmonie covers a lot of ground. "Hey Duke" blends one Pike composition with two by Kreigel, opening in abstraction but quickly turning fiery, a short but idiosyncratic theme setting the pace for a high velocity, swinging solo from Pike. Kreigel's solo begins in similar territory, but soon dissolves into an intense free improvisation unlike anything heard from Burton. Dialing in copious tremolo and reverb, Krieger is matched by bassist Johann Anton Rettenbacher's aggressive attack, with drummer Peter Baumeister maintaining a pulse underneath it all, leading back to the original theme for a rapid finish.



Pike's "Mambo Jack the Scoffer" explores the nexus of jazz and country, featuring Kriegel's Chet Atkins-style finger-picking. Kriegel's "Riff for Rent" is a buoyant blues, with the guitarist's sharp tone and bluesy bends a European counterpart to Burton's guitarist, Larry Coryell. Rettenbacher's rock-centric "Nobody's Afraid of Howard Monster" is also blues-based, but with a knottier theme and shifting bar lines that settle back to straight time for energetic solos from Pike and Krieger.



The disc's highlight, however, is Kreigel's "The Secret Mystery of Hensh." With a cello pedal tone resembling the tranquil introduction to Eberhard Weber's "The Colours of Chlöe," it's differentiated by an east Indian feel that, bolstered by Kriegel's ostinato and Rettenbacher's strummed pedal tone, and is less detailed and more open-ended. The hypnotic ambience remains until three-quarters of the way through, with the quartet again turning to extreme free play that builds in intensity until Kriegel signals a return to the calming drone of the intro.



That Pike and Kriegel, who died in 2003, have never received their due is an injustice that deserves to be at least partially rectified by this first time CD release of the genre-busting Live at the Philharmonie.


Track Listing: Hey Duke; Mambo Jack the Scoffer; Riff for Rent; Nobody's Afraid of Howard Monster; The Secret Mystery of Hensh.

Personnel: Dave Pike: vibraphone; Volker Kriegel: guitar; Johann Anton Rettenbacher: bass, cello, electric bass; Peter Baumeister: drums.

Title: Live at the Philharmonie | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Promising Music/MPS


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