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Four Classic Albums (It's Time For Dave Pike / Pike's Peak / Bossa Nova Carnival / Limbo Carnival)

AVID JAZZ AMSC 1249 CD1: [74:17] CD2 [77:56]



First things first, though it’s a common feature in my reviews: I’d never heard of Dave Pike before. If I’d also never heard of his jazzman colleagues I wouldn’t have felt so bad somehow but I know nearly all of them so how has he slipped my radar? To me that just goes to show how many jazz musicians there are; it’s just the same in classical music where you can read that such and such a musician has been well known and respected for many years and you feel stupid for never having come across them before. Generally I think that is a reflection on the healthy state of music both live and recorded; there’s a lot more out there than any of us realise. That said any vibes lovers out there will love these two well filled discs, despite my reservations over disc 2 (see below). That leads me to heap praise yet again on Avid Jazz whose continued releases add so much to recorded jazz history; yes, they’d been released before on vinyl ‘back in the day’ but to introduce them to a new and wider audience on CDs is a true valued service to the jazz-loving public and coupled with their incredibly competitive prices, their format of 4 classic albums on 2 CD sets make their releases irresistible!

For me the early 1960s when these tracks were cut was a real highpoint in jazz and, significantly for me, when I ‘discovered’ jazz. One of my early heroes was Milt Jackson and the MJQ through whom I became an avid vibes lover; its silky smooth almost tintinabulatory sound had me well and truly hooked. Yes, I also came upon Lionel Hampton but didn’t enjoy his jazz as much. At some stage I ‘graduated’ to the likes of Andre Previn, Shelly Mann, Gerry Mulligan, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane and many more, all of whom cut me off from the mellifluous sounds of the vibes which I rarely listened to later on. That leads to a kind of welcome rediscovery when occasions like this arise giving me a chance to listen to this wonderful instrument again with fresh ears and what a wonderfully expressive instrument it is.

For reasons of time and space I shall only touch on a few of the 46 tracks on these two discs; ones I was particularly struck by. Dave originally played drums before swapping them for vibes which he was clearly a natural at so that aged 22 and arriving in New York with his instrument and $5 he caught the attention of pianist Barry Harris who had perhaps heard him when he spent a year with Paul Bley or later during his brief spells with Buddy de Franco and Elmo Hope. In any event he recorded the first album featured here scarcely a year after his arrival in the big apple and indeed Barry Harris is pianist on the disc in question. What I have been struck by with Dave Pike is that he has none of the rather ‘clinical’ approach of Milt Jackson or the over the top showiness of Lionel Hampton, he is thoughtful but oh so musical, he swings when called for and can gently transport you to another plane when he chooses introspection over full-blown expression.

Throughout the 4 albums there are only 3 songs by Pike himself giving us the opportunity of hearing his bands do ‘standards’ revealing to us how great they were in repertoire we are mostly familiar with (I for one -again- didn’t know João Donato by name though I did know the odd song of his). This is particularly evident in his debut disc as leaderIt’s Time For Dave Pike in which we find the classic On Green Dolphin Street whose main theme works so well with vibes. He is also generous in his giving space for his colleagues to shine and shine they most definitely do as in Tadd Dameron’s Hot House with some beautifully workmanlike bass playing from Reggie Workman (there I’ve worked in the obvious pun and won’t do it again, honest!) and marvellous pianism from Harris while Pike weaves his magic vibes in and around when not giving away completely which he does again in his own Forward leaving Harris to shine once again (what a player he is!) and swinging is certainly the right adjective to describe Dave in this piece. Another wonderfully swinging piece comes next with Miles Davis’ Solar and Pike takes us through it at a great lick showing speed as well as flowing lines can be combined to marvellous effect. His incredibly light touch is in clear evidence in Rodgers and Hart’s dreamy Little Girl Blue which is the only solo piece on the two discs (a rarity for vibes) and a brilliant example of his unique qualities in which his beautifully singing tone is even more in evidence than when he is part of the band. Dave completely loses himself in the music doing what Glenn Gould was known for, singing to himself as he plays; fortunately this doesn’t distract the listener much though it’s strange to note that the singing is slightly out of tune!

Dave Pike Quartet – Pike’s Peak comes next on disc one on which his colleagues are a change from his debut disc; in fact the personnel changes on each one which seems to indicate he didn’t have a regular set of jazz companions yet each band sounds so well integrated. This, however, is a well known element in jazz; that new people can meld in so completely you can easily believe they’ve been playing together for years. It is also a measure of the esteem his jazz colleagues had for this young man that on this disc he was able to encourage no less a jazz giant as Bill Evans to be his pianist. The disc is launched in marvellously swinging style with Pike’s own Why Not (a reponse to Miles Davis’ So What ?) which has a thoroughly engaging bouncing beat that propels things along superbly with some fabulously integrated work from bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Walter Perkins.

Ellington’s In A Sentimental mood enjoys a gloriously tuneful treatment that emphasises why it has become such a classic staple in jazz and of course its dulcet tones are so clearly made for this special instrument. Bésame Mucho gives us a heads up about Pike’s liking for and mastery of the Latin beat which is exploited to the full on Disc 2 comprising two complete albums centred on this genre. Walter Perkins’ short solo on this track has you wanting more.

Turning to Disc 2 comprising Bossa Nova Carnival and Limbo Carnival I have a confession to make, that I don’t like lashings of Latin music; a short dose is always of interest but I find a surfeit of it a case of over egging the pudding. I feel much the same way about Cuban jazz and much of what we understand as Afro Jazz. I can only put it down to the fact that the main and overriding feature, the particular pulsating beat, in all these musics is ever present in each and thus is by definition necessarily restrictive in terms of time signature which is so often 4/4 as in the rhumba. I don’t know if that is a minority view and in any case there will be millions that love it. For me it is a perfect example of ‘cross over’ because I cannot see that it is Jazz in the sense I understand it. Having said all that and nailed my colours well and truly to the mast I have to concede that the genre into which rightly or wrongly I lump Latin, Cuban, Caribbean Calypso and Afro Jazz, has its moments; I well remember hearing Chan Chan from Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club’s hit album and being propelled to buy it and then being disappointed with the other tracks that somehow just didn’t match it for excitement and rhythm.

All the tracks on Bossa Nova Carnival are by Brazilian composer and Rio De Janeiro native João Donato and are firmly in the rhumba beat groove and it all seems ‘too easy’ and thus gives me the feeling that these great musicians including Clark Terry and Kenny Burrell are being wasted, being unable to improvise and show what they’re really made of.

Unsurprisingly I feel pretty much the same about the remaining album Limbo Carnival for the same reasons and even when the original composer is Charlie Parker (My Little Suede Shoes) or Sonny Rollins (St.Thomas) the relaxed calypso beat is just too restrained for me; as an old friend of mine would have put it “there’s no blood on the carpet”. It’s the kind of music a band would put on for a function rather than a jazz gig. In classical music I prefer the darker music to the lighter; Beethoven over Mozart, and here I feel the same as it all sounds “too safe”. That is not to take anything away from the musicians who do everything you would expect from them but it all ends up as a showcase for Dave Pike’s indisputable talents as vibist rather than a homogenous example of jazz at its best. Sorry to end on a negative note though I will say that two numbers stand out as being the most ‘jazzy’ and that’s Rollins’ Mambo Bounce and Pony Poindexter’s Cattin’ Latin which are less affected by the calypso influence and in my opinion highlight the failings of the rest.

With the highly competitive prices of Avid Jazz discs vibes lovers will still enjoy disc one with its 2 albums and over 74 minutes of great jazz over a total of 13 tracks so don’t let my pouring cold water over disc 2 put you off from buying the set and, in any case, you might like the Latin sets too!

Steve Arloff


Dave PIKE (1938-2015)


Dave Pike – It’s Time For Dave Pike


2.On Green Dolphin Street

3.It’s Time

4.Hot House



7.Little Girl Blue

8.Tendin’ To Business

Dave Pike Quartet – Pike’s Peak

9. Why Not

10.In A Sentimental Mood

11.Vierd Blues

12.Besame Mucho

13.Wild Is The Wind


Dave Pike – Bossa Nova Carnival

1.Samba Lero



4.Carnival Samba





Dave Pike – Limbo Carnival

9.La Bamba

10.My Little Suede Shoes


12.Mambo Bounce

13.Limbo Rock

14.Calypso Blues

15.Cattin’ Latin

16.St. Thomas

17.Jamaica Farewell


CD1. It’s Time For Dave Pike: Dave Pike (vibraphone), Barry Harris (piano), Reggie Workman (bass). Billy Higgins (drums) rec. New York City, January 30 th & February 1st,1961.

Dave Pike Quartet – Pike’s Peak: Dave Pike (vibraphone), Bill Evans (piano), Herbie Lewis Bass), Walter Perkins (drums) rec. New York City, February 6th (tracks 9-10,12) and February 8th, 1962 (tracks 11,13)

CD2. Dave Pike – Bossa Nova Carnival: Dave Pike (vibraphone) (& marimba tracks 5-6), Clark Terry (flugelhorn tracks 2,4,5,7). Kenny Burrel (guitar), Jose Paulo (cabasa), Chris White (bass), Rudy Collins (drums) rec. New York, September 6th 1962 (tracks 1-5,7) and September 7 th 1962 (tracks 6,8)

Dave Pike – Limbo Carnival: Dave Pike (vibraphone, marimba), Tommy Flanagan (piano tracks 10,11,14-16), Leo Wright (alto sax, flute tracks 9,11,13,17), Jimmy Raney (guitar tracks 9,11,13,17), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass tracks 10,12,14-16). George Duvivier (bass tracks 9,11,13,17) Ray Baretto (congas), William Correo (drums) rec. New York, December 12th, 1962


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