Live at the Philharmonie was the Dave Pike Set's third record for MPS in the year 1969 alone; Noisy Silence-Gentle Noise (MPS 15215) and the stellar Four Reasons (MPS 15253) preceded it. One of the most interesting ideas about this amazing set of music concerns the notorious circumstances under which it was recorded, at the 1969 Berlin Jazz Days festival. The reason for this is the year itself: Miles Davis and his group had brought their fiery brand of electricity to jazz and its reverberations were being heard the world over. At the same time, prog rock and Krautrock were making their heads (considered ugly by jazz purists) known in the guises of Can, Neu!, Amon Düül, and Faust. Add to this Charlie Mariano's great band, the new hip embracing of rock culture by the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band, Peter Herbolzheimer's Rhythm Combination & Brass, and any number of other groups, and Berlin was in a state of tension. The wild thing is, everybody agreed on Pike's group -- it was the bridge between the jazz tradition, what was transpiring, and what was to come. The band featured the leader on amplified vibes (he claims he was the first vibraphonist to have electric vibes), master guitarist and composer Volker Kriegel, bassist and cellist Johannes Anton Rettenbacher, and legendary drummer Peter Baumeister. The bottom line is this: Pike's band was smoking hot. Everybody could write, arrange, and play. The Dave Pike Set, as evidenced by this live date, walked inside every camp at one time, from bop and hard bop to rock, Eastern modal music, Latin, classical, pop, and virtually everything in between, but the meld was seamless.
The out and out swinger "Hey Duke," which opens the set, was funky hard bop with a pop melody; "Mambo Jack the Scoffer" walked the line between Celtic folk, Baroque classical, the dance music of the title, and lithe swinging jazz à la Brubeck and contemporary Vince Guaraldi (who Pike had heard and jammed with in America); Kriegel's rock guitar solos, as in "Riff for Rent," were stuck inside a slippery blues and soul-jazz frame. Straight-up funky rock meets smoking improv and the slippery invention of jazz harmonics and elastic rhythmic invention in "Nobody's Afraid of Howard Monster." And finally, Kriegel's "The Secret Mystery of Mensch" closes the set on a full-scale exploration of Eastern modal drone and psychedelic time stretching as a natural breeding ground for jazz. In other words, inside of 32 minutes the Dave Pike Set wowed the house and placed a temporal bridge between the warring cultural camps. And not because they compromised to water down any of the music that interested or influenced them. Nope. What the Dave Pike Set accomplished here is nothing short of astonishing. The band's studio records do it, too, but here the in-the-moment communication is wildly exciting and deeply satisfying. This disc hasn't been available in any form in America for over 30 years. SPV has made a beautifully remastered Japanese version of this album on CD, dressed in a gatefold album-like cover and containing the disc in black in a lined sleeve, with original liner notes in German and English with a new note from Pike, all slipped in a heavy paper wrapper to protect the case -- and it's affordable! This is one of the great Dave Pike records (there are quite a few), and one of the greatest jazz-rock era recordings that is all but unknown in America. Get it.