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Karl Berger

Woodstock, NY      

Karl Berger is internationally active as a composer, performer (piano, vibraphone), conductor of the CMS Improvisers Orchestra (CIO), and leader of improvising soloists’ ensembles, with vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso. He also conducts development sessions with ensembles and individuals, coaching young (and young at heart) instrumentalists in finding a wider and deeper range of expression and perspective through his “Music Mind” approach.

Born in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1935, he studied composition and piano, earned a PhD in philosophy and joined the Don Cherry Quintet in Paris,1965.He became a resident of the US in 1967. He recorded and performed with Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, John McLaughlin, Gunther Schuller, the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Ingrid Sertso,  Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Ray Anderson, Carlos Ward, Pharoah Sanders, Blood Ulmer, Hozan Yamamoto and many others at festivals and concerts internationally. He composed and arranged for classical ensembles, jazz groups, fusion groups, big band, symphony, and for special project recordings, featuring solo artists and producers such as Jeff Buckley, Angelique Kidjo, Bill Laswell, Natalie Merchant, Suzanne Vega, and others.

With Ornette Coleman and Ingrid Sertso, Karl Berger founded the now legendary Creative Music Studio and its parent organization, the Creative Music Foundation, Inc. in 1971, with the overriding goal of developing concepts and practices highlighting the common language of music beyond styles and categories and as a most personal expression in improvisation and interpretation.

He received Grants and Commissions by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, German Radio: WDR, NDR, SWF, Radio France, Rai Italy and is a 6-time winner of Downbeat Critics Poll as a vibraphonist.

Presently, Karl releases piano recordings through Tzadik Records, an recently recorded/performed with Ingrid Sertso, Warren Smith, Anthony Braxton, and with the next generation of composers/performers of improvised music, such as Ken Filiano, Jason Hwang, Kirk Knuffke, Mark Helias, Kenny Wessel, to name a few.

He regularly conducts CIO alongside CMS Artist Director Billy Martin, performing throughout New York State, the United States, and overseas. 

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Karl Berger Conducts CMS Improvisers Orchestra in Germany

This clip features CMS Founder and Artistic Director Karl Berger conducting the CMS Improvisers Orchestra (CIO) in Germany. CIO features a revolving cast of more than 100 professional musicians. The orchestra creates spontaneous compositions in live performances utilizing the improvisational methodologies pioneered by Berger in conjunction with Orenette Coleman.

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