Werner Pirchner tenor vibes, marimba
Harry Pepl ovation guitar
Jack DeJohnette drums
Digitally recorded on a Sunday afternoon in June 1982 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Vastly under-recognized malleter and composer Werner Pirchner sharing the same studio with guitarist Harry Pepl and drummer Jack DeJohnette? What could go wrong? Quite a bit, unfortunately. The opening “Africa Godchild” starts intriguingly enough, seeming to creep from the soil like an awakening locust. Pirchner describes with his marimba the feelers of a friend testing the air and finding only the welcoming glow of sunrise, while DeJohnette’s tom-heavy drumming calls forth the swarm. Yet despite these evocative beginnings, Pepl’s Ovation soon becomes distracting, and the chorus effect applied to it makes its chording sound perpetually out of tune. When soloing, however, it sounds fantastic, as the force of the playing cuts through the warble that constricts it. In “Air, Love and Vitamines,” the guitar again feels out of place, despite the lovely improvisatory stretch from Pirchner’s vibraphone. “Good-bye, Baby Post” fares little better, and Pepl’s crackling solo is too little too late. He shows admirable melodic acuity in the closing “Better Times In Sight,” but is once more undermined by the amping, which would have benefited greatly from a cleaner treatment.
This unusual collaboration could have been something special. Technical criticisms aside, its major stumbling block comes from the musicians’ lack of communication. Each draws a sphere that only seems to intersect tangentially with the other two. This might have been a gem of a recording had only Pirchner and DeJohnette been there to lay it down. In a catalogue as vast as ECM’s, one can hardly be surprised to encounter a forgettable effort now and then. Sadly, this may be one of them.