Karl Berger (musician)

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Karlhanns "Karl" Berger (* 30th March 1935 in Heidelberg ) is a German jazz - vibraphonist and pianist . Along with Albert Mangelsdorff , Gunter Hampel and Peter Brötzmann, Karl Berger is one of the outstanding musicians and style-defining figures of the first generation of West German free jazz . With his Creative Music Studio in Woodstock , founded in 1973 , he promoted the examination of jazz with international musical cultures and thus shaped the way many US jazz musicians play.


Training and doctorate

Karl Berger had music lessons at the Music and Singing School in Heidelberg from 1948 to 1954 . After graduating from high school, he studied musicology and sociology at the Free University of Berlin . With a dissertation on "The function of determining the music in the Soviet ideology" Karl Berger in 1963 became the Dr. phil. PhD .

During his studies, Karl Berger played as a jazz pianist and, since 1960, as a vibraphonist in many jazz clubs . Berger occasionally performed in Cave 54 , the first and ultimately only Heidelberg jazz club, founded in 1954. Back then, Cave 54 was a multicultural meeting place for jazz fans, mainly because of the "US American soldiers serving for a fixed period" , which in those years were stationed in Heidelberg.


Berger went to Paris, played Le Chat qui Pêche in the Paris club , and accompanied Steve Lacy and Eric Dolphy on the piano. In 1964 he became a member of the Don Cherry quintet in Paris, in which Gato Barbieri also played. Berger went to New York with Don Cherry in 1966 , where he also played with Roswell Rudd , Marion Brown , Sam Rivers , Pharoah Sanders , Lee Konitz and others. Berger was also involved as a vibraphonist on recordings by Don Cherry, John McLaughlin , Hōzan Yamamoto , Dave Holland and on the recording of Charles Mingus' great composition Epitaph under Gunther Schuller .

In 1968 Karl Berger founded the New York Total Music Company with Don Cherry and in 1971 the Creative Music Foundation with Ornette Coleman . In 1973 he and his wife Ingrid Sertso set up the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock , where, along with other creative musicians, John Cage , Lee Konitz, Steve Lacy, Richard Teitelbaum and George Russell taught and formed large orchestras with their students. Karl Berger has developed his own rhythm training for his students.

Berger dealt with world music very early on . Diverse musical cultures also influenced his work and teaching. He has CDs a. a. recorded with Vitold Rek , John Lindberg , Annemarie Roelofs , Theo Jörgensmann , Petras Vyšniauskas , David Moufang , Pete Namlook , Ivo Perelman and the group Südpool . In 2008 Berger and Sertso started to publish recordings of the workshops and concerts of the CMS. On the vibraphone in particular, Berger is a great virtuoso who, building on gamelan phrases, improvises with abstract and differentiated swing and with a reduction to the essentials very insistently improvised.

Arranger and conductor

Karl Berger was involved as arranger and conductor in several of Bill Laswell's own productions , but also in productions by Jeff Buckley ( Grace ), Natalie Merchant ( Ophelia ), Better Than Ezra , Sly & Robbie, Angélique Kidjo and others. In 2011 he appeared on the album Through a Crooked Sun by Rich Robinson ; there he played piano and metallophone .

Teaching activities

From 1994 to 2003 he was professor at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts . He then headed the music department of the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth (Massachusetts) until 2005 .


Karl Berger is married to the singer Ingrid Sertso, with whom he also performs regularly in a duo and quartet. The theater director Sebastian Seidel is his nephew.


As a vibraphone soloist, Berger has won the annual critics' poll of the Down-Beat -Jazzmagazin six times.


  • Karl Berger: Sketches of world music experiences. In: Wolfram Knauer (Ed.), Encounters. The World Meets Jazz. (= Darmstadt Contributions to Jazz Research , Vol. 10). Wolke Verlag, Hofheim 2008, ISBN 978-3-936000-04-7 , pp. 255-274.
  • Karlhanns Berger: The determination of the function of music in Soviet ideology. (= Philosophical and Sociological Publications ). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1963, 128 p., Also dissertation at the Free University of Berlin 1963.

Web links


Individual evidence

  1. a b Ben Ratliff : A Ferment of World Jazz Yields a Trove of Tapes. In: New York Times , October 21, 2008.
    “In the history of contemporary improvised music it was a very, very big thing,” the pianist Marilyn Crispell said [...]
    “The kind of information that people got at CMS really influenced both their listening and playing habits from then on, ”he [Berger] added.
  2. ^ Eva Pörnbacher: Interview with Sebastian Seidel. ( Memento from March 15, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). In: SchauInsBlau.de , December 7, 2015.
  3. Biography. ( Memento of July 13, 2011 in the Internet Archive ). In: karlberger.com , (German).