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Volker Kriegel - Mild Maniac CD (album) cover


Volker Kriegel

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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3 stars German jazz guitarist Volker Kriegel has been hailed in certain quarters as the father of European jazz-rock. This is in part due to his work with the US avant-garde vibraphonist Dave Pike in his influential fusion combo The Dave Pike Set, as well as the subsequent series of erudite albums he himself produced for the MPS label during the early '70s. Mild Maniac (1974) was the fourth recording in that series. Kriegel was responsible for the cover illustration and design of this album; in addition to being a talented musician and producer, he also wrote and illustrated children's books. Another of his claims to fame was that he co- founded the United Rock and Jazz Ensemble with, among others, Jon Hiseman.

Another founder of this ensemble, bass player Eberhardt Weber, joins Kriegel on Mild Maniac. The other musicians are Rainer Bruninghaus (keys), Joe Nay (drums) and Swiss percussionist Peter Giger. The album consists of 6 instrumental pieces all of which were composed by Kriegel apart from the lengthy closer D-Dodel, which was a group composition. This is a 12-minute experimental piece built around an extended Weber bass solo. Kriegel's clean-toned guitar chats cosily with Bruninghaus's vibrant electric piano for the first few minutes (for me, Bruninghaus really steals the show on this album) before Weber's interruption. Speaking with my symphonic head on, the best way I can describe this is to imagine Moonchild with a lengthy bass improvisation. Not the most accessible of pieces, for sure.

The remainder of the album is more approachable. Mindwill has a nice laidback groove with synthesizer and electric piano weaving their way around Kriegel's electric and acoustic solos. I'm a bit of a jazz novice but I get the impression that the next piece, Prinz Eisenherz, might be the sort of track that is disparagingly called 'elevator music', pleasant though it is with more acoustic guitar and electric piano. The lively Schnellhorspiel moves along at a good pace although I find the temple blocks a little intrusive during Bruninghaus's solo. Still, this is one of the album's highlights. The title track is another one that's easy on the ear, featuring some wonderful rippling acoustic piano. Krieger's guitar is treated with different effects on penultimate track, The Visit, and this is another that bounces along nicely. By all accounts Spectrum is his best album, but this one is certainly good and therefore worthy of 3 stars.

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Posted Sunday, March 28, 2010 | Review Permalink

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