(Bio by Rocco Stilo)
German-born (1935) veteran pianist, vibraphonist, arranger, conductor and composer Karl Berger, also founder and director in 1972 of the Creative Music Studio, started his career in first '60s, playing also with several jazz giants, as in the live Copenhagen 1963 & Hilversum 1966, with Don Cherry, Archie Shepp and Gato Barbieri. His first studio album was Jazz Da Camera, an EP recorded in july 1963 on piano, in a quartet with flute, bass and drums. Before Transfiguration (january 1967), a collaborative album played on vibraphone with the Rolf + Joachim Khn Quintet, and the session in Don Cherry's Symphony For Improvisers (september 1966), he came to his first full credited album, From Now On (december 1966), seven tracks free improvised on vibraphone along with Carlos Ward (alto sax), Henry Grimes (bass) and Ed Blackwell (drums). In the same lineup Dave Holland replaced Henry Grimes for Tune In (july and august 1969), an experience more post-bop influenced. Previously, he played in Don Cherry's Eternal Rhythm session (november 1968). After having collaborated in John McLaughlin's Where Fortune Smiles (may 1970), he recorded We Are You (november 1971), playing vibraphone, piano and marimba, along with Peter Kowald (bass), Allen Blairman (drums) and his wife Ingrid Sertso (vocals), particulrly the 18-minute Easy Suite. With Silence (june 1972) was composed and played on vibes and marimba in a quartet along with Japan pianist Masahiko Satoh. The DoLP The Peace Church Concerts gathers two long (the 38-minute Space In Time and the 45-minute Silence In Sound) compositions live performed on piano and vibraphone in may 1974 along with Dave Holland (bass), Richard Teitelbaum (sinthesizer), Ilene Marder (flute), Bob Moses (percussion), Garrett List (trombone) and Betty McDonald (violin), and his wife Ingrid (vocals). Just Play (march 1976) is a duo album along with drummer Ed Blackwell, two long (30 and 27 minutes) suites free improvised on vibraphone and balafon. All Kinds Of Time (april 1976) documents five tracks on piano, vibraphone and balafon in another duo, with bassist Dave Holland. With the same instruments, Interludes (may 1977), his first solo album, gathers ten pieces basically improvised. The DoLP Changing The Time (november 1977 and january 1978) is a collaboration with his wife Ingrid, who, on vocals and percussion, accompanies the husband on piano, vibraphone, hafrmonium and balaphone. The rare DoLP United Patchwork (november 1977), credited to Musica Elettronica Viva, gathered a notable lineup with Berger on piano, electric piano and vibraphone, Garrett List (trombone), Richard Teitelbaum (synthesizer), who composed the 23-minute Via della Luce, Steve Lacy (soprano sax), who composed the 10-minute Fox, and Alvin Curran (synthesizer, piano, vocals and flugelhorn), who composed the 14-minute Psalm. Another duo collaboration, with altoist Lee Konitz, yielded Seasons Change (october 1979). The ensemble Woodstock Workshop Orchestra, comprising of, among others, Tom Cora (cello), Lee Konitz (alto sax), Oliver Lake (sax and flute), Trilok Gurtu (percussion), James Harvey (trombone) and Leroy Jenkins (violin), produced two live albums: New Moon (july 1979), that gathered five pieces, notably the 17-minute Smile, and Live At The Donaueschingen Music Festival (october 1979), that added Don Cherry on trumpet and flute. After a hiatus, Again And Again (march 1985) was produced in Japan, documenting a collaboration of shakuhachi player Hozan Yamamoto, a foray in jazz fusion. The soul funky Jazz Dance (may 1986), was cocredited with his wife, and played on vibraphone and various keyboards. The rare Transit, released by Italian label Black Saint (august 1986) was a trio on vibraphone with Dave Holland and Ed Blackwell. After another hiatus, Transparencies (january 1989) documents a collective experience played on piano, vibraphone and balafon with american bassist Anthony Cox, drummer Tom Tedesco and guitarist Jack De Salvo. The trio with Blackwell and Holland returned in Crystal Fire (april 1991), featuring notably the namesake 31-minute suite, basically free. The DoLP Conversations (march 1994) sports a collective experience with James Blood Ulmer (guitar), Carlos Ward (sax and flute), Dave Holland (bass), Mark Feldman (violin), Ray Anderson (trombone) and the wife Ingrid (vocals). The twelve pieces gathered documented a mixing of post-bop and contemporary jazz. His Orchestra is documented in No Man Is An Island (october 1995), a nine movement suite free improvised. His Friends are a project comprising of John Lindberg (bass), Tani Tabbal (drums), Frank Moebius and Peter Einhorn (guitars), Ray Spiegel (tabla), Peter Apfelbaum (tenor sax), Annemarie Roelofs (violin) and his wife Ingrid, documented in Around (may 1990) and Stillpoint (november 2001). 2 X 2 gathers three different studio sessions (march 1991, june 1992 and may 2000) recorded on piano and vibraphone along with John Tchicai (saxes and clarinet) and Vitold Rek (bass). Strangely Familiar (february 2010) collects 17 "piano solo" miniatures mixing jazz and classical. After The Storm (november 2012) documents a collaboration with guitarist Philip Gibbs and vocalist Mossa Bildner, that yielded the 20-minute title-track. The seven-movement suite Gently Unfamiliar (november 2013) was a piano trio along with Joe Fonda (bass) and Harvey Sorgen (drums). Latest years were dedicated to collaborative albums: Reverie (march 2014), The Art Of The Improv Trio Volume 1 (may 2016) and The Hitchhiker (july 2015) with Ivo Perelman; Moon (december 2013 and january 2014), with Kirk Knuffke. Berger also was arranger for rock artists, particularly Bill Laswell.
The double-disc set Conjure
(march 2014) was a collaboration with
Jason Kao Hwang on violin & viola.
Heart Is A Melody (april 2022) documents a collaboration between Berger and Kirk Knuffke (cornet), with the rhythm section of Jay Anderson (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums).
Karl Berger died in 2023.