When it comes to duo playing, chemistry is everything. Each performance is an intimate conversation, an open setting for two musical minds to converge and go where the music dictates. Bassist John Lindberg and keyboardist/vibraphonist Karl Berger have been playing together for over thirty years, developing the cohesion and intimacy that make for great performances. Duets 1 is a monument to their mutual sensitivity and singular artistic vision.
Lindberg's bass lines and bowed accompaniments provide a flexible foundation for Berger, who switches between instruments over the course of nine tracks. The piano lends an impressionistic air to "Innocuous, the curiously-titled opening track, but Berger is at his best on the vibes. His formidable technique is displayed on "Peace, the arresting Ornette Coleman original, and his graceful lines soar over Lindberg's spare counterpoint. The performance gently pulses, slipping in and out of lugubrious tempo as the two converse freely between melodic fragments, reaching highs where Berger's bell-like dissonances merge with Lindberg's ethereal upper harmonics.
After the reflective serenity of "I Am A Leaf For Today, Lindberg's frenetic ostinato opening to "3-3-3-7 rivets with its guttural urgency. His resonant eighth notes establish the odd meteras the title suggests: three bars of three attached to a measure of sevenbefore Berger joins him, doubling the bass line before drifting into abstraction. The six-minute track is a veritable lesson in bass technique. Lindberg bends, plucks, slaps notes and rhythms in response to and in anticipation of his partner; when Berger gets reflective, Lindberg takes out the bow and feeds him long, languorous sustains; when he's restlessly staccato, Lindberg is there plucking microtonal counterpoints below his bridge.
In a world of hype and one-hit-wonders, understated albums like this tend to drift quickly to the periphery of public attention, despite the quality of the music. Hopefully, audiences will discover this album and recognize it for the rarity that it is: a joyful, intimate conversation between life-long friends.
Innocuous; Peace; Chromatic Ways; I Am A Leaf For Today; 3-3-3-7; Dakini; Yatan-Na; In My Mind's Eye; Ancient Warmth.
John Lindberg: bass; Karl Berger: piano, vibraphone.