Thursday, March 23, 2006

Who is Dave Pike? 

As a collector of jazz and funky music, I learned the answer to that question about four years ago. As a fan of "traditional" jazz, it took me many years to venture too far afield from the well known artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Clifford Brown, and other giants. But enjoying and collecting music is all about exploration, and at some point I stumbled into the genre of "soul jazz," or at least the form of it so well rendered on the Prestige label, whose artists brought forth great music with plenty of organ and guitar and heavy drums. Organists like Charles Kynard and Trudy Pitts, guitarists like Melvin Sparks and Boogaloo Joe Jones, drummers like Bernard Purdie and Idris Muhammed. And from there I was sufficiently emboldened to explore some of the more untraditional forms of jazz, some of which cross dangerously over to other genres like funk and soul, and, dare I say it, easy listening pop. And then I discovered Dave Pike.

Who is Dave Pike? Hyp Wax tells it like it is.

Dave Pike is a class act, unafraid to try any style, at least for an album, and usually succeeding wildly at it. His earliest LPs and session work are classics and mostly hard to find. Then as he "freaked out" in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he laid down some monster cuts of psychedelic soul jazz, James Brown covers, funky-sitar beats, and more that still enjoy new favor in the nightclubs of the subsequent century. There are not that many soul-jazz and funk vibraphonists of great note, but Dave Pike is the first name in hip vibe records.

Born in 1938 Detroit, he first played piano and drums, even joining the Detroit Junior Symphony Orchestra at age eleven. Having moved to Los Angeles, Pike in 1954 discovered the vibraphone at a drum shop. This became his chief instrument, seconded by the marimba, which he played early on with Mexican bands and later on his albums. He played rock and Latin in his early days, and later this experience lent his music great versatility as well as popular appeal. Playing always with great earnestness, humor, and even earthiness, he can be heard chanting along with the tunes on several LPs.

Pike began to gig with such jazz stars as Elmo Hope, Buddy DeFranco, and Paul Bley by 1956. By 1958 Pike had moved to San Francisco to be closer to New York musicians, and in 1960 he made the move to New York. Siz years of stints with globetrotting Herbie Mann exposed him to some of the world's farther-flung music. In 1966 he moved to Germany, where the newly formed Dave Pike Set quickly became the leading jazz act. Pike's usually thematic albums are recognized as seminal jazz and soul-jazz classics, and at least one cut has reached immortal status among disc jockeys.

What to buy (assuming y'all still buy music in some album form)? Its all good, but I'd recommend starting with Jazz for the Jet Set, which came out on Atlantic in 1968. It features Herbie Hancock and is groovy, baby. Manhattan Latin is a nice loungey set with a Latin vib, suitable for all occasions. The Dave Pike Set albums on MPS, like Noisy Silence - Gentle Noise are a bit more sophisticated and varied, using a wide range of rhythms and adding the occasional sitar twang, but they are truly outstanding as well. The best of the MPS albums have been collected on the compilation Masterpieces, which is fantastic, albeit hard to find. (Note: I have linked to Amazon, but have had better luck finding some of these titles over at Dusty Groove America.)
Updated with album links.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Mar 23, 08:39:00 PM:

Is there any way this contributor could condense his postings into just one or two a day?  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Thu Mar 23, 09:40:00 PM:

The blogosphere's a big place, dude. If you don't like it, don't read it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Mar 24, 02:10:00 AM:

There is no such thing as too much Charlottesvillain.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Fri Mar 24, 05:59:00 AM:

Great post :) I may have to move the turntable upstairs.  

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