Volker Kriegel: Biton Grooves

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MIG are doing a good job of reminding the world of the many achievements of the late Volker Kriegel. In his lengthy entry on the German guitarist for the first edition of Jazz: The Essential Companion, fellow United Jazz and Rock Ensemble member Ian Carr tells that this prolific guitarist and composer (and noted cartoonist) wrote a good deal of music for TV programmes and animated films. It’s this functional side of Kriegel that we encounter on the two discs here, named after the Biton-Studios in Frankfurt where the various sessions were cut in either 1974 or 1978.

In a useful sleeve-note, Lothar Trampert defends the music – each track of which comes with descriptive tags for would-be users, such as  “rock groove”, “Latin rock’”and “funky rock”  – against the charge of easy listening, pointing out that there is plenty of assured, quality playing to enjoy.

It’s a fair point. However, after the impact of the opening five tracks of CD1, with Weber and Brüninghaus  on board, had begun to fade, I began to wonder how I could listen to a further hour-plus of such smoothly rendered, chiefly mellow fusion fare.

Fortunately, things pick up considerably on CD2 , with the energy levels and sense of attack generally far more compelling (to these ears, at least). It’s both the crisp, bluesy bite and the flowing harmonic grace of this latter music – which reminds one that Kriegel’s early elective affinities included Wes Montgomery – that led me to give this double-CD set a three rather than two star rating.

Discography
CD1: (1) Hands Off; The Stop Watch; Towards You; In And Out; In The Playground; (2) Outline; Palm Dreams; Mouse Funk; Madison Bold; Clearface Heavy; One Day In Summer; Flute Statement; Song For Anja; Soul Zebra; Summer Breeze; Soft Thunder; Sweet Soul Samba; In Your Face; Bahia Next Year (51.56)
CD2: (3) Certao; Dialog; Delay Time; Fly Easy; We Will Sing; I Narango; (4) Just For You; Some Trunk Funk; Big Tattoo; Mr. Solomon; I Can See You Now; You’ve Got It; (5) Fortaleza; Walking Distance; Jenny Comes Back; Sticker; Batida; Fountain Valley (54.27)

Kriegel (g, elg, pc) with (1)  Rainer Brüninghaus (elp); Eberhard Weber (elb);  Klaus Weiss (d); Peter Giger (pc); (2) as (1) but Weber & Weiss out; Hans Peter Ströer (elb); Joe Nay (d); (3)  Hans Peter Ströer (gs, pc); (4) as (3) but Ströer (elb); Thomas Betterman (elp);  Evert Fraterman (d); (5) as (4) plus Wilson de Oliveira (f); Daniel Basanta (d). Frankfurt, 1974, tracks (1) & (2). Frankfurt, June 1978 tracks (3)-(5).
Made In Germany MIG M1309-2