Karl Berger


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Lest anyone forget what a wondrous vibraphonist and pianist Berger is, this recording is a welcome reminder. The musical conversations are a series of duets with various longtime friends, including alto saxophonist/flutist Carlos Ward, bassist Dave Holland, guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer, vocalist Ingrid Sertso, trombonist Ray Anderson and violinist Mark Feldman. The music is completely tonal, lively within subtle constructions, and thoroughly enjoyable. With Ward, Berger conjures up a more spiritual side on the lustrous alto sax/piano Berger original duet "At Last," while Ward's pitch perfect flute is an organ of sheer beauty alongside Berger's vibes on the 6/8 paced "Out There Alone." If you've heard Holland and Berger's trio sessions with Ed Blackwell (Transit and Crystal Fire on Black Saint) you know these two are in tune with each other's every move, evidenced on the beautifully conceived vibes/bass unison & counterpoint of "Presently" or the lengthy piano/bass lament "Still." The distinctly unusual combination of Berger's piano extrapolations and Ulmer's electric guitar crops up on "North" with Ulmer choppy and Berger agreeable, or the more bouncy "South." Anderson leaps into a couple of standards, with Berger's piano on the extraordinarily spontaneous, well paced "Bemsha Swing," and a less calypso/more swinging with vibes take of "St. Thomas." Feldman's features have him hunting, pecking, and effectively searching for fresh harmonic vistas, weaving in and out of the languid piano and melody of "Lover Man," or the free and fanciful vibes/violin tandem in the palpable swing of the improvised piece "Another." In oblique or inquisitive words and scat, Sertso joins Berger's similarly stanced vibes on "Why Is It That It's Not?," whereas in a light, airy mood they give perpective on "Freedom Getting There," Berger's lithe piano providing all the answers. While close to Berger's best, it certainly is his most universally accessible recording. Easily recommended to the max, but definitely check out the Berger-Holland-Blackwell trio CD's as perfect companions pieces, and equally perfect, fully realized musical statements.

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