Thursday, October 06, 2005

Karl Berger - Tune In

Karl Berger
Tune In
Milestone Records MSP 9026
Recorded July 30th, August 12th 1969 at Plaza Sound Studios (NYC)

Side One

1. Tune In
2. With Silence
3. Get Up
4. Fly
5. Beyond The Moon

Side Two

1. Clarity
2. Never The Same
3. From Now On
4. Tune In

All selections by Karl Berger


KARL BERGER; vibraphone (and sarangi on 'fly' and both versions of 'tune in')
CARLOS WARD; alto sax & flute

Vibes. We've all been there. We all know what vibe jazz sounds like - which is great, of course, but sometimes I long to hear the vibes played in a style other than Milt Jackson's. This is where Karl Berger comes in. Yes, he plays vibes, but with the freedom of expression and harmony that marks out all great avant-garde jazz. He's surrounded himself on these sessions with a group of fine musicians who had already made their mark in other areas of the avant-garde. Ed Blackwell had played with Ornette Coleman on his Free Jazz experiments, Carlos Ward was a member of John Coltrane's 1965 octet, while the young Dave Holland had recently recorded 'In A Silent Way' with Miles Davis.

'Tune In' kicks off with a revolving vibes figure sounding uncannily like 'tubular bells' before Carlos Ward enters on flute and the rhythm section start to do their thing - it's very much in time - there are rhythmic rules being adhered to - although the time signatures keep on changing giving the piece a feeling of unease that's soon resolved when the drums lay out and Dave Holland lays down a complex solo - well, not a solo as such, as an extended theme which almost but not quite gets back to where it started. Karl gets his sarangi out, too (it's an indian classical instrument - follow the link above...) at this point, it's otherworldly sound mingling well with the bass line. The whole feel is not dissimilar to that of Eric Dolphy's 'Out To Lunch'.

'With Silence' is suitably silent, really nothing more than an extended vibes solo with the others chipping in occasionally. Where the album gets really exciting, though, is with 'Get Up', which is a bit like (no, VERY like) John Coltrane's 'countdown; arranged for vibes - similar pace, similar frantic soloing, similar ability to make your jaw drop at the sheer technical skill involved in making something like this work. And a fantastic drum solo, too.

The album goes on in this vein, 'Fly' being very similar to the preceding track until the sarangi breaks in and an air of tranquility settles over the group that lasts through to 'beyond the moon' - briefly - until Carlos (he's been a bit quiet up till now) gets a chance to strut his free stuff and then share some lovely unison lines with Karl.

Did I mention the singing? It's very (very) low in the mix and only really audible through decent headphones. It sounds a lot like Karl being picked up through the mic on his vibes - he's basically singing along with his melody in an incredibly high pitched sort of doo doo sound which makes him sound quite, quite mad.

He's an elusive chap, too. He has got a website which has some information about what he's been up to in the last few years, but unfortunately makes no attempt to talk about earlier glories. This LP is a bit of a mystery, too, with precious little information about it being available online. Most of what i know about it comes from the sleevenotes - see below. But never mind that, I've got it, and soon they'll be coming from far and wide to read my review...

Back to the music - side 2 begins in full on free jazz mode with 'clarity', again featuring some superb soloing from Dave Holland. What a bass player. He's got to have at least 7 fingers on each hand to play like that! 'Never the Same' is a bit of a test of the listener - it's basically just Karl and Carlos playing off each other but doesn't quite come off, somehow, it's almost like all the magic has gone out of the group. 'From Now On' does a great hard bop impression, with a faintly familiar theme (possibly a Coltrane number? It'll come to me one day) followed by everyone getting some decent solo space. And finally, the album rounds off with another take of 'Tune In', following much the same recipie as the previous version.

So there it is. 40 minutes of outstanding avant-garde vibes playing with first-rate musicians providing backup. What more could any jazz fan ask for that this?

Karl Berger;
Karl Berger at;


Anonymous said...

there's something the i could ask you ;-)

where can i listen it? it's hard to find...

craig said...

Head to the main page and on the right hand side near the top you should find the player...

marco said...

please, contact me at

id like to talk you ;-)