By the time vibraphone player Dave Pike landed at Ubiquity records, it had been some time since he'd stepped into the spotlight to lead a recording date. Bophead, his first release for the label, finds him in particularly fine company. Many of the musicians here bring an impressive history to these recordings. The combined resume of pianists Jane Getz and Milcho Leviev and drummer Albert Heath alone is astounding, including dates with Art Pepper, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Billy Cobham, John Coltrane, and Pharaoh Sanders, among many others. Pike himself has lent his excellent vibe work to recordings by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Tommy Flanagan, and Bill Evans. Together, the musicians draw heavily from the bop vocabulary on these 12 performances. The opening of "Nita" finds Getz offering the sort of open chords that McCoy Tyner delivered behind Coltrane. The group then proceeds to drift between this expansive territory and the more familiar bop strut. While bassist Richard Simon is clearly comfortable with the traditional walking patterns, he's particularly expressive during "Nita"'s freer moments, lending exceptional accompaniment to solos by Getz and guitarist Anthony Wilson. The bassist is the understated propulsive force behind the group on "Ghost of a Chance," playing in a punchy, heavily-ornamented walking style that continually expands and contracts underneath the musicians. Pike is dazzling throughout, his solo on "Ghost" being particularly stunning. The excellent sound quality manages to capture both the harder edges of his more forceful attack as well as the ringing tones typically associated with his instrument. Throughout, Pike and company prove that returning to the bop format hardly adds up to a lack of inspiration. Song after song, it becomes clear that the setting is ideal for the ideas of the individuals involved with nearly every solo breathing invention and expression.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush