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Volker Kriegel

 “I became a professional musician in autumn 1968.” It would be easy enough to overlook the import of Volker Kriegel’s remark, such is its succinct nature. But as Kriegel’s widow Evelyn recalls, the decision of the 25-year-old guitarist to switch from amateur to professional status was a pragmatic one: “We were both studying and had no money. The three fields that Volker had cultivated with a passion were drawing, writing and making music. So it seemed natural to try to make a living out of them.”

Volker Kriegel was born in Darmstadt on Christmas Eve 1943 and died in San Sebastian in northern Spain on 14 June 2003. By 1968 he had not only become a promising and talented guitarist, he was even then one of those rare jack-of-all-trades who, in addition to his music, possessed the drawing and writing skills to create witty and acerbic caricatures and cartoons, many of which he published for the entertainment of a wider audience through the magazine Publik. “It was the ideal working situation,” said Kriegel: “The Publik connection came about at the same time as the Dave Pike Set, in other words at the start of my career as a professional musician.”

The Dave Pike Set featured Kriegel on guitar, Hans Rettenbacher on bass, Peter Baumeister on drums and the American Dave Pike on vibraphone, and became the matrix for a kind of “fusion Made in Germany” – and that also applied to Kriegel’s later bands. With its iconoclastic “Anything Goes”, in which the four musicians ripped up the barriers between jazz, pop and rock, the Dave Pike Set certainly left a deep mark on the musical scene of the period.

It is thanks largely to the far-sightedness of the arts department at Südwestfunk (SWF) in Mainz that Kriegel’s incomparable talent was recognised and from 1963 documented regularly both in the studio and live on stage. The recently discovered and newly released recordings from these years trace the process Kriegel underwent during this period, revealing how his self-image as a jazzman was thrown out of kilter as he gradually opened himself up to pop and rock.

Like so many musicians of his day, Kriegel was self-taught. As a youngster he was shown the “official” jazz chords on a guitar, before going on to discover for himself the great American masters on vinyl and on the radio – Herb Ellis and Wes Montgomery, as well as Jim Hall and Barney Kessel. Listening today to the recordings the trio made with the 19-year-old guitarist in 1963, it is not difficult to detect the presence of these role models. But in numbers such as “Django”, “Polka Dots And Moonbeams” or “Rhythm-A-Ning”, Kriegel not only came to the fore as a jazz guitarist, he translated the US swing tradition into a new and vibrant idiom with an extraordinary melodic phrasing which in 1963 was all his own.

In the mid 1960s, Kriegel was adopted into the German jazz academy that was Frankfurt’s Jazzkeller, home to the first great generation of German improvisers centred on the Mangelsdorff brothers, Albert and Emil. At the same time he got work as a semi-professional jobbing guitarist in the many US Army clubs dotted around the Rhine-Main region. The amateur jazz festival in Düsseldorf, which voted Kriegel best soloist in 1963, was another key staging post for the young guitarist. Here he met the organist Ingfried Hoffmann and sax player Klaus Doldinger, with whom he performed his first professional gigs. He also got to know Claudio Szenkar, whose instrument,|the vibraphone, was to play a recurring theme throughout Kriegel’s career. His fascination with the contrasting timbres of these two instruments had developed in 1967: the guitar, with its melodic linearity and problematic dynamic; the vibraphone, with its full sound spectrum, from warm, round low notes to piercing high ones. In order to further intensify the unique effect of this pairing, Kriegel even opted in certain numbers for the nylon strings of his acoustic guitar.| But the second half of the 1960s was also the hay-day of the Fab Four. “Volker had always had a great interest in strong tunes,” explained Evelyn Kriegel, “and he was completely taken with the songs of the Beatles, with their intelligent lyrics and wonderful melodies.” “Norwegian Wood” is a good example of how jazzmen Kriegel and Szenkar completely deconstructed this simple theme with its falling melodic line, and used their eloquent improvisational skills to lend new brilliance to the song’s haunting lyricism. |  By 1969 Kriegel had finally made a name for himself on the jazz scene. For that year’s SWF recordings he brought in saxophonist Gustl Mayr and vibes player Fritz Hartschuh, making a quintet out of the Dave Pike Set’s rhythm section. A particular feature of this band was its stoic, repetitive rock grooves, which formed a counterpart to the striking melodic playing of the jazz musicians. But in 1969 something else manifested itself: Kriegel had also found his personal idiom as a composer. He penned the majority of works for this session. And as a composer he was just as rigorous in his goal of approaching in impartial and enlightened manner the intrinsically different styles of jazz, pop and rock. For throughout Volker Kriegel’s life this had been the essential characteristic of a “true” avant-garde. “This not-taking-seriously of certain categories,” he once explained, “would then be more modern than the introverted style of playing we already think of as modern.” |

Catalogue No.: 101726

4Saint Louis-Blues
6Les Enfants S'ennuient Le Dimanche
7Autumn Leaves
8Three Seconds
9Tea And Rum
11Don't Wait
12Nana Imboro
14Connie's Blues
16Traffic Jam
17Little Pear
18Norwegian Wood
19Five By Four
20Royal Harp
21Cry It Out
22Soul Eggs
23Noisy Silence, Gentle Noise
24Somewhat, Somewhere, Somehow
25Sitting On My Knees
26Slums On Wheels
27I'm On My Way
29Mother People

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