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John Lindberg / Karl Berger: Duets 1

Troy Collins By

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With roots in the vocalized timbre of the blues, the conversational nature of the duet has become commonplace in jazz. The conceptual inroads made in the post-war years further expanded traditional notions of rhythm, melody and harmony, allowing even greater expressive freedom for such intimate dialogues.

Coming from different generations but arriving at the same aesthetic outlook, pianist/vibraphonist Karl Berger and bassist John Lindberg share a proclivity for lyrically contemplative free jazz. Espousing the liberated lyricism of such icons as Ornette Coleman and Paul Bley, their dialogues are more cerebral than kinetic, often bordering on the impressionistic.

A key player in the halcyon days of the New Thing, Berger has performed and recorded with everyone from John McLaughlin, Dave Holland and Lee Konitz to Don Cherry, Marzette Watts and Clifford Thornton. Eschewing the typical four-mallet method, his vibraphone technique is linear in execution, much like his piano playing. An advocate of the melodic line rather than the chord, Berger's tonal view is readily espoused by Lindberg, making them a sympathetic pair.

An in-demand sideman and session leader in his own right, Lindberg is also a founding member of the erstwhile String Trio of New York. A resolute and melodious improviser, his playing is sublime one moment, intense the next. "In My Mind's Eye" demonstrates his capacity for both; beginning with mellifluous arco work, Lindberg quickly intensifies his attack with searing harmonics and torrid string rending.

Varying the instrumental palette over the course of the album, Berger switches between piano and vibraphone while Lindberg alternates between arco and pizzicato technique, lending a surprisingly varied patina to the session.

Akin to Ornette Coleman's Harmolodic theory, Lindberg and Berger share melodic, rhythmic and harmonic responsibilities equally. Their interpretation of Ornette's "Peace" is a case in point. Berger's vibes glide gently over and around Lindberg's rubato pulse. The structure of the tune is pliable, expanded and contracted by the pair's thematic interpolations of the melody.

Duets 1 provides the two masters a perfect forum for the exchange of ideas. Veering from the plaintive, tenderness of "Dakini" to the jagged angularity of "3-3-3-7," the duo explores a wealth of dynamic approaches. The title indicates a likely follow-up; one can only wonder where they'll venture next.


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.

Title: Duets 1 | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Between the Lines

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