While hardly a household name on these shores, German jazz guitarist Volker Kriegel (1943-2003) appeared on more than 200 releases and was a founding member of the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble, a large ensemble which included fellow European-based, forward-thinking jazz heavyweights including bassist Eberhard Weber, flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler and trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff.
While still in his twenties, Kriegel was exploring the still-forming bridge between jazz and rock. An unearthed live track taken from the Cinedelic Records reissue of Kriegel’s long-out-of-print 1968 debut With A Little Help From My Friends, “Nina’s Dance” is a nine-minute workout of early jazz fusion that surely swings but is injected with enough frantic rockist-enthusiasm by Kriegel (who cuts deep as both a soloist and side player) and his cohorts. In particular, the live jam boasts some tasty back-and-forth between clarinetist Tony Scott on clarinet and tenor sax player Gustl Mayr.
While hardly the intense jazz-rock blur that artists like Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Herbie Mann and Larry Coryell were instigating, “Nina’s Dance” is more akin to the nascent late-1960s fusion work from sax player Steve Marcus. “Nina’s Dance” and the remainder of Kriegel’s debut (which also features cover versions of then-new Beatles tunes) has value as both a jazz-rock oddity and a quasi-kitsch relic when jazz and rock music were in the innocent courting stages of what would become, for better or worse, the eventual full-blown virtuoso bacchanal-blood-orgy of 1970s jazz fusion and prog rock.