There are many kinds of duo albums, but the more successful ones treat the burden of cooperation as a psychological, and not merely aesthetic
, endeavorconscious that a sense of human sensitivity is necessary to register great conversation (much rarer, it would seem, than intelligent art). None of this goes to say that pathos and fury can serviceably replace careful planning and good ideas, only that closeness demands intimacy and, well, two people alone are often closer than two people in a crowd.
Vibraphonist Karl Berger, a veteran of the blustery incunabula of creative American and European music, can speak more effectively than most on the exigencies of communication in a more personal, more expressively open musical context. Like his former collaborator Don Cherry, a master of musical revealing, Berger has cut out a sort of niche for himself as a guru of very small group settings. Berger's cool, limpid sound is about as cutting on vibraphone as Ornette Coleman's on saxthe sort that demands engagement that shocks you (or him, or her) out of your pretensions and out of your head because it announces that it speaks itself; naked and from the heart.
Bassist John Lindberg, Berger's sometime musical partner since the big Woodstock Creative Music Studio confab in the 1970s, plays on Duets 1 with a sort of gammy, somatic voice that is just rightnot just intellectually right or historically right, but committed to the passion that Berger's playing commands. As finely, technically wrought as this music isboasting some dangerous metrical interplay and an astounding level of physical facility (Lindberg, as an aside, is a living clinic on arco bass and has succeeded, like few others, in approaching that technique from a truly melodic perspective)Duets 1 reaches, at its best moments, a feeling that two personalities are truly meeting.
It's not a perfect recording by any meanssome of what's here is simply pleasant, airy and dispassionate after the ECM fashion, and Berger spends a lot of his time on his less interesting, if still engaged, piano. In many spots, though, there's a Taoist level of balance between these musiciansBerger sharp, quick, and light, Lindberg hard, heavy, and dark. It's almost audible how strongly one reacts and moves sonic earth for the other. It's at least an achievement that two improvisers are so willingly with one another.