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Brik Gallery, Catskill, NY
Saturday, April 27, 2007

by Jeff Waggoner

Talk about hidden treasures.

The hills of the Capital Region are filled with them, especially musical ones.

Count one as Karl Berger, resident of Woodstock, and a treasure of the Catskills.  Indeed, he’s a gold mine as pianist, vibraphonist, composer and musicologist.

Berger and his erstwhile student and current collaborator, the brilliant bassist John Lindberg (of Kerhonkson), helped Tom Bellino of Planet arts kick-start the return of Bellino’s Jazz one2one series.

The last iteration of Bellino’s series was held at the North Pointe Cultural Center in Kinderhook, held under the auspices of the Hudson Valley Friends of Jazz.  Unfortunately,  that series was discontinued – apparently owing to the building getting a new owner.

For Albany residents, Catskill is a longer haul than Kinderhook.  But since Bellino consistently brings among the best jazz musicians to the area – it’s worth the few minutes extra drive time.

Saturday’s concert was at the BRIK Gallery in Catskill.  But the stark, white walls of the art gallery couldn’t overcome the warmth of the music and the duo playing.

They played a seven song set, made up mostly of their own composition, but they included a piece by Ornette Coleman, a co-founder, along with Berger, of Woodstock’s Creative Music Studio.

The Coleman song was “Peace,” of which Berger noted more was needed.  The duo also played “In My Mind’s Eye,” by David Izenzon, the late bassist and one of Lindberg’s former teachers.

The highlight of the performance, though, was the musicians own compositions.

Critics often note that Berger’s music is “abstract” or “experimental.”  Not fair.  The terms suggest a coldness and inaccessibility that is not at all like the music he played Saturday.

Spare. Elegant.  Engaging.  Tight. Those are more accurate descriptors.

His songs were wonderful foils to the more fiery and funky Lindberg compositions.

If you don’t think the double bass can be a solo instrument – just hear Linberg play his “Fiddle Sticks” – a joyous, tub-thumping transformation of the acoustic bass into a one-man percussion band.

Much of Saturday’s music can be found on the duo’s latest recording “John Lindberg – Karl Berger Duets 1,” (Between The Lines- BTLCHR 71210( 2006)
It’s needed for those who attended Saturday’s concert because this is music that becomes more rewarding with more listenings.

Up next for Jazz one2one is saxophonist Dick Oatts and pianist David Berkman.  Saturday, May 19, at the BRIK Gallery, 473 Main St., Catskill.

Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Metroland, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times. He lives in Nassau, is a student of jazz saxophone and guitar and can be frequently found at jazz, blues and folk concerts.