Karl Berger Day

March 30, 1935 – April 9, 2023

A birthday tribute to the vibraphonist, pianist, composer, and educator

Karl Berger was born Mar. 30, 1935 in Heidelberg, Germany.

He began playing piano when he was ten, worked in local clubs as a teenager, started playing vibes (which became his main instrument) when he was in his twenties, and made his recording debut (on piano) in 1961 on a date with tenor-saxophonist Hans Koller.

Berger was attracted to the more adventurous side of modern jazz and in 1965-66 he played and recorded (on vibes) with Don Cherry in a group that also included Gato Barbieri.

He moved to New York in 1966 and made his first album as a leader for ESP, soon working with Marzette Watts, Steve Lacy, Clifford Thornton, Carla Bley, and Lee Konitz.

In 1972 Berger co-founded the Creative Music Studio with Ornette Coleman and Ingrid Sertso; he has continued as co-artistic director of CMS up to the present time, teaching and advising a countless number of musicians during the past 50 years.

In addition to leading over 25 of his own albums, he has recorded with Anthony Braxton, Ingrid Sertso, John Tchicai, John Lindberg, Ivo Perelman, and all-star groups from the Creative Music Studio.

Here is Karl Berger playing a set of intriguing duets with cornetist Kirk Knuffke in 2015.

-Scott Yanow