Bassist John Lindberg describes his thirty-year creative partnership with pianist/vibraphonist Karl Berger as a "symbiosis," which Wikipedia defines as "the living together in... prolonged close association of members of two usually different species, with beneficial or deleterious consequences... If you accept that definition on its face and apply it to Duets 1, you must admit the results of Lindberg and Berger's collaboration have been nothing but beneficial.
Duets 1 is made up of a series of improvisational mosaics; Lindberg and Berger get individual credit for the compositionsfor instance, "Innocuous is identified as a Berger tunebut each piece is clearly the work of a unit. Berger takes the lead on "Innocuous, building beautiful lead lines off of logical progressions, but the overall piece is akin to watching two people paint the same masterpiece from opposite sides of the canvas, soloing with each other as they solo against each other. The result is so perfect that it had to come from one mind.
"Dakini resolves itself as a loving portrait of someone near and dear, while "Yatan-Na is a staggering representation that suggests water falling down a rock face. "3-3-3-7 is just thata series of figures Lindberg lays down as a foundation for the pair to launch into different directionswhile "Chromatic Ways has Lindberg following Berger's lines just a few seconds behind, adding his own shading to the colors Berger has already splashed onto the canvas. David Izenzen's "In My Mind's Eye is almost prayerful at the start, then gets higher and wilder as the players ratchet up the energy until they practically disappear, only to re-form at the end of the piece. All of it echoes Lindberg's take on the partnership: "Creating, collaborating, inventing, moving, and renewing.
Berger has a superb sense of touch, whether he plays keyboards or vibes. The lighter he plays, the better he gets: There is a wonderful tenderness to his piano on another Izenzen tune, "I Am A Leaf for Today ; you feel the protagonist's connection with life and the acceptance of whatever the day brings from moment to moment. His vibes paint light over darkness on "Ancient Warmth and add an echo to the blues on Ornette Coleman's "Peace. Lindberg's bass work shares Berger's sense of subtlety, which makes Lindberg's forceful moments that much more affecting. A single slash of Lindberg's bow on "Yatan-Na shocks you to your core, and his work on "3-3-3-7 gets more powerful and percussive until he literally becomes a percussionist, banging out the beat on the shell of the bass.
The "1 in Duets 1 assumes there will be others. That jibes with Lindberg's statement that the disc is "the artistic trailhead of a path we have only but begun to tread upon. The Empire Strikes Back notwithstanding, I've never been a huge fan of sequels. But given the marvelous scope of Duets 1, Duets 2 is a follow-up I'd watch for.
Track Listing: Innocuous; Peace; Chromatic Ways; I Am A Leaf For Today; 3-3-3-7; Dakini; Yatan-Na; In My Mind's Eye; Ancient Warmth.
Personnel: John Lindberg: bass; Karl Berger: piano, vibraphone.
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