Azul Infinito Liner Notes

Posted by: Ryan on December 27, 2016 @ 7:10 pm
Filed under: Catharsis, Press

It was a pleasure working with the great Arturo O’Farrill on the liner notes for Azul Infinito. You can read both of our thoughts on the record below!

Soon after moving to New York City in 1999 at 19 to attend the Manhattan School of Music, some of my first strong musical friendships were – somewhat ironically for a sheltered kid from the Pacific Northwest suburbs – formed within the burgeoning South American jazz community in New York. These early connections included Pedro Giraudo and Sebastian Cruz (whom I’ll discuss below), Fernando Otero, Hector del Curto, Pablo Mayor and Martin Vejerano. The musical traditions, rhythms and sounds of the Southern Hemisphere were completely foreign, yet somehow familiar. Fifteen years later, my subconscious connection to these sounds, have turned to a conscious awareness of the universal language of music, and more specifically the emotional power that great music holds on its listeners.

In American music this emotional power has historically stemmed from the defining role played by the blues over the past 125+ years, while similar cathartic Afro-centric musical traits can be found throughout Latin American music. Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentinean writer, called this indescribable catharsis through art an “evento estético” or “aesthetic event.” My aesthetic event, and the inspiration for this record, is the sum total of these years of experience and exposure to South American cultures, customs, friendships and music, which has helped shape me into the musician I am today. I hope this record conveys the influence that South American music has played in my life, and allows listeners to experience their own aesthetic event.

Each original song on this record is either dedicated to, or directly influenced by, a specific South American composer with whom I’ve had the pleasure to play.

The opening track, “I Thought I Knew,” pays homage to the rhythmic tornado of the Argentinian chacarera groove. I grew familiar with this rhythm many years ago through bassist and composer, Pedro Giraudo, as we spent hours in practice rooms jamming and practicing standards in unusual meters like 5/8, 7/8, 11/8, and 13/8. The lyrics were written for Catharsis by a powerful New York-based writer and poet, Manca Miro, whose words unfold like a sixth band member, both on this tune and “She Sleeps Alone.”

My decision to include lyrics on Azul Infinito was driven in large part by my love for the songwriting of Sebastian Cruz – a brilliant composer, songwriter and guitarist. The undeniably compelling melody of “Canción Mandala” comes from the repertoire of his Colombian folk/jazz band I played with from 2006-2007. Although I had already been performing complex jazz music for years, playing Colombian folkloric music was an ear-opening experience for me as I grappled to feel the downbeat found in simple yet sophisticated Colombian grooves.

“Mr. Azul” pays tribute to the Afro-centric traditions found throughout most South American folk music, and the elements of danceable energy and cathartic properties found universally in music with African roots. In 2014 I was fortunate to travel throughout Colombia with the percussion virtuoso and composer, Samuel Torres, also a member of the New York scene. One particular style that stuck with me was the Afro-Colombian fertility dance known as the bullerengue, with its infectiously propulsive groove that inspired this composition.

Having been such a longtime friend and member of his band, I couldn’t record a South American inspired album without arranging at least one of Giraudo’s ballads. Pedro’s writing is some of the most dramatically captivating music I’ve had the pleasure to play, and his ballads written in the northern Argentine folkloric tradition known as the zamba convey this drama most poignantly for me. Pedro originally wrote “La Ley Primera” as an alto saxophone feature for his jazz orchestra. For my arrangement I commissioned Argentinean singer, songwriter, and lyricist, Roxana Amed, to add lyrics to the tune. The song, which translates to “first law,” references one of Argentina’s most widely known and beloved epic tales about the gaucho – the Argentine cowboy.

Roxana describes the song and her lyrics as follows: “We Argentinians seem always to be wandering in our own land as exiles, heartbroken, longing for happiness. There is a book that tells the story of a lone pilgrim in his own deserted world, condemned by his brothers and abandoned by his own principles. This man sings, and his words, which Argentine children learn early on, reach our hearts every time. ‘The first law’ states ‘Let the brothers be united.’ This refrain is now more than ever a rallying cry for every Argentinean in the world.”

“Quintessence” was inspired by the Brazilian musical icon and songwriter Ivan Lins. His harmonically sophisticated, though highly accessible songwriting is a great source of inspiration to me. I had an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with Lins in 2006 when he performed with the Maria Schneider Orchestra at a Rio de Janeiro jazz festival and still think about his honest voice and poignant delivery.

“Eternity of An Instant,” my latest composition for Catharsis, is a snapshot of many different musical elements I’ve now inherited from South American music. The title of this song comes from an essay by Borges, which reads: “Man lives in time, in successiveness, while the magical animal lives in the present, in the eternity of the instant.” Fittingly, through-composed structure of the composition, along with the folkloric undertones, are inspired by the Grammy-nominated Argentine composer, Emilio Solla, whose tango-inspired band I’ve been playing in for a number of years.

All told, this is by no means a Latin record or a Latin jazz record by traditional standards. Although I draw inspiration from composers and songwriters from the Southern Hemisphere, the music contained herein represents a broad scope of what South American music can be. From the Brazilian pop of Ivan Lins to the folkloric songwriting of Sebastian Cruz to the jazz-meets-Argentine stylings of Pedro Giraudo to the symphonic virtuosity of Samuel Torres; these experiences have broadened my understanding of what South American music means and I hope that it will broaden your understanding as well.

Ryan Keberle
November 2015, New York, NY


In my imagination Ryan Keberle grew up surrounded by fog, coffee and grunge music. I am not sure this is so, but for New Yorkers (who are amongst the most provincial humans possible) everything west of Ohio and north of San Francisco is so.

A far cry, socially, emotionally, and aesthetically from the Alto Plano in Bolivia, El Yunque in Puerto Rico, or the Andean highlands of Colombia. Empanadas, pupusas, ceviche and chicha morada are a far cry from corn dogs, apple pie and hamburgers.

And yet, human beings share the need for catharsis, for cleansing and release. Often we find it in places far from whence our journey begins. For Ryan, the journey finds its catharsis in the worlds of porro, festejo, milonga and maracatu (South American rhythms).

Music is a journey, a fluid line, not a fixed point in space. It thrives on catharsis. It defines itself not by what it is or isn’t but by what it can become. Ryan is in tune with this concept. He surrounds himself with musicians whose frame of reference is those southlands, guiding lights from throughout the Americas, Michael Rodriguez (who plays with Gonzalo Rubulcaba, Charlie Haden and Yosvany Terry), Camila Meza (originally from Chile, but who has burst onto the scene in the last five years as an important original voice), Eric Doob (who plays with Paquito D’Rivera and Miguel Zenón) and Jorge Roeder (originally from Peru, known for his associations with Sofia Rei, Julian Lage and Shai Maestro). Multi-lingual artists who don’t define themselves as this or that but like Ryan, see themselves as passengers on a blessed journey that is more important than the destination. For that is their catharsis as well.

For those who care to see definitions, categories and boxes, this is not your journey. For those, like Ryan, who see their fullest realization when they embrace others instead of themselves, this is their (and our) aesthetic event, our blessed catharsis.

Highlights include the opening track, “I Thought I Knew,” which feature interwoven layers of differing time patterns that resolve into a beautiful bass-led intro to the piece itself, while Camila sings of travels in our minds and in our lives. “Canción Mandala,” by Sebastian Cruz, has a serpentine melody that begs the question “where am I?/find me,” as if to say that the catharsis is not only about our journey in finding ourselves and one another. Therein lies the greatest treasure, loving and being loved.

If one reads or listens to the lyrics by Manca Miro on “She Sleeps Alone” one might think it is a tragically sad statement but rather is a beautiful composition about solitude and the strength one gains from independence and love. This composition truly partners with the words, as do the improvisations. Ryan’s original composition, “Eternity of An Instant,” is dedicated to Emilio Solla with whom Ryan works with in a group called “La Inestable de Brooklyn,” reflecting his boundless imagination. I saw this group perform and besides Ryan’s outstanding contributions, Emilio’s compositions are a source of inspiration to me. Beyond classification, this piece is part chamber music, part poem, part sound painting. The improvisations reflect the same cathartic aesthetic. As a side note, throughout the recording I find Eric Doob’s drumming a superb example of supportive understated accompaniment without grandstanding.

Ivan Lins has long been one of the hippest musicians and humans on the planet. His music is as alive and filled with joy as any I’ve ever heard. The closing track features Ivan’s tune, “Madalena,” and is a fitting way to end this recording. It is a light, airy jaunt into the pure joy of making music that defies gravity both physical and self-derived.

Each composition is a personal invitation from Keberle to experience his own catharsis through sound. Each one a cleansing reflection on an interaction with a South American composer that has left him (and consequently us) somehow changed for the better. It is also an invitation to interact with five musicians who soar through worlds rather than inhabit them. They teach us how one should see not only our art, but our world, as a place where one defines himself not by what he is or isn’t, but what he might become. Thank you Ryan and company for this reminder. This is a cleansing stance, a true evento estético.

Arturo O’Farrill
November 2015, New York, NY

Azul Infinito on Grammy Award Official Ballot!

Posted by: Ryan on October 20, 2016 @ 1:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hi everyone, I’m very excited to announce that the latest Greenleaf Music Catharsis record, Azul Infinito, has made it onto the Official Ballot for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. If you’re a voting member of the Recording Academy please consider including us on your Top 5 Nominees. We are entered into the following categories:

Improvised Jazz Solo – Mike Rodriguez on “Quintessence”, Jorge Roeder on “Mr. Azul”, and Ryan Keberle on “Eternity of an Instant”
Jazz Instrumental AlbumAzul Infinito by Ryan Keberle & Catharsis
Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella – “Mr. Azul”
Arrangement, Instrumental & Vocals – “I Thought I Knew”

Votes are due by November 4th.

Here’s just a little bit of what people have been saying about Azul Infinito:

“5 new jazz albums you need to hear…inventive, fun, and polished — and never self-indulgent (a jazz rarity)” – Billboard

“A strikingly original album…Keberle’s most fully realized statement yet.” –

“Azul Inifinito is [Ryan Keberle & Cartharsis’] best and most ambitious recording to date…propulsive and infectious, grooving and gorgeous.” –

“Entrancing and exceptionally well-crafted tracks that expansively convey a wide range of emotions…a message that needs to be heard and experienced.” – The Ottawa Citizen

“even if you don’t know a chacharera from a bullerengue, Azul Infinito captivates with its distinctive arrangements and skein of cultural fusions and juxtapositions” – JazzTimes

“These may be art songs, but they’re art songs that invariably lead to next-level propulsion” – Down Beat

“A compelling marriage of aesthetics…simultaneously muscular and tender” – New York City Jazz Record

“Dynamic and worldly” – The New York Times

“Rooted in tradition, yet stretched inside-out and upside-down enough so that it’s a whole ‘nother animal, making it a fusion of the best sort.” – Classicalite

“Ryan Keberle is one of the hottest names in jazz trombone… His own group, Catharsis, is a powerful ‘chordless’ quintet of similarly sought-after musicians” – The Irish Times

“one of the best jazz records of the year so far, and the band kicks ass” – The Brooklyn Rail

“one of the most hypnotic record starts I’ve heard this year” – Vancouver Province

Spring 2016 Tour Blog Post

Posted by: Ryan on June 4, 2016 @ 8:50 pm
Filed under: Catharsis

Of course, this will come as no surprise to most of you, but it’s safe to say that this past season of tours could easily be summed up in two tired words: NO SLEEP! Unlike what they teach you in jazz camp it’s not all glamour and glitz on the road. With that being said, it doesn’t get a whole lot nicer than touring through the Bay Area and Southern California. If it weren’t for the exorbitant rent and lack of jazz venues I’d be high-tailing it out of New York City! Our west coast tour started off with a clinic and performance at Cal State East Bay organized by my fellow trombonist, the venerable Mitch Butler, followed by a double bill performance at the Berkeley Arts Festival organized by the prolific Bay Area jazz clarinetist, Ben Goldberg. Both Mitch and Ben’s hospitality and generosity reminded me of just how important a role the spirit of community and camaraderie continues to play in the jazz world. On a different note, many of our past tours, and probably thousands of other tours before us, have been powered by obscene quantities of quality Mexican cuisine and, I’m glad to say, this tour was no exception after the 26 burritos, 13 quesadillas, and 4 pounds of guacamole we consumed in California. SIDEBAR – Mexican food has become such a staple in our band that we now have a Mexican meal named after our bassist called the Roeder Special.

Catharsis Saddleback College

Catharsis Saddleback College

Catharsis Santa Monica

Catharsis Santa Monica

Upon our return to New York City that same sense of jazz community was on full display for our CD release performance at the Jazz Standard with many friends, colleagues, students, mentors, and fans all coming out to help us sell out the first set and fill the second. Keep an eye out for a video or two from this very special gig!

Catharsis Jazz Standard

Catharsis Jazz Standard

Perhaps the most exciting event for us this past spring was our European debut which began with a performance in a 400 year old opera house atop a 2000 year old Italian hillside village called Bergamo. Unfortunately, we had a total of 12 hours to enjoy this picturesque locale as we flew straight to the UK to play a few gigs and workshops in London and Cork. It was in Cork where our driver (me) got to test out his skills maneuvering our vehicle on the left side of the road with a manual transmission (READ: this means shifting with your left hand!). I’m glad to report that no person, animal, or vehicle was hurt in this test. Our last night in Europe was spent in one of the great cities of the world, Paris, playing at the legendary and historic Duc des Lombards jazz club. You can hear the radio broadcast of that final performance of our European tour here: LIVE at Duc des Lombards

Catharsis Bergamo

Catharsis Bergamo

Catharsis Duc des Lombards

Catharsis Duc des Lombards

The next morning, while sitting on the Paris tarmac waiting to fly home, unbeknownst to us at the time a terrorist attack was underway at the Brussels airport. This really hit close to home as we paused to consider just how much time we musicians, or anyone who travels for a living, spends in airports around the world. In the face of such brutality, as a performing artist, I feel an even greater urge to bring our music to listeners around the world, especially those with little or no access to live jazz, hoping to provide some sense of hope, peace, beauty, or other quintessence of truth our listeners find.

Our final tour of the season was through the great state of North Carolina via Washington, D.C. Our gig in D.C. was one for the ages, although, not for the reason you might think. In an unfortunate turn of events our 2nd set was cut short after a motorcyclist decided to test out his custom sound system’s maximum volume just outside the jazz club. The club is not known, unfortunately, for it’s superior sound insulation. However, the tour was salvaged in Greensboro, NC with a performance and workshop at the Miles Davis School of Music, a state university program, led by my good friend and great bassist (and my former tenant!), Steve Haines. Steve took us out to a fabulous dinner just down the street from the infamous Woolworth building that effectively sparked the beginning of the civil rights movement in 1960. There now stands a poignant memorial and museum honoring the four courageous freshman college students who sparked a social revolution. Our final gig in North Carolina took place at the majestic Carolina Theater in Durham where we were given the royal treatment – what a beautiful theater and wonderful audience!

Catharsis finished up with performances for a sold out crowd at the Center City Jazz Festival in Philadelphia and then one more show back home in NYC at Rockwood Music Hall. In total, over a 3 month period, Catharsis performed 19 concerts and 9 workshops – easily our most productive period in the band’s 5 plus years together. After some further deep reflection, for those aspiring jazz musicians and band leaders, I’d like to share 7 things I learned as a band leader:

1. European mini vans are just slightly larger than an American Toyota Corolla.
2. Even the band leader has to sleep. Sometimes.
3. Irish audiences are AMAZING.
4. Bread and butter is all you need for a satisfying meal in France.
5. Guinness, Murphy’s, Beamish and soda bread is all you need for a satisfying meal in Ireland.
6. Wine and prosciutto is all you need for a satisfying meal in Italy.
7. There’s no such thing as a satisfying meal in England (just kidding, we had some ridiculous pizza at Pizza Express!)

Sign up for our mailing list if you’d like to stay informed of our upcoming concerts around the world (you can find that on our Contact page). We have an exciting 2016/17 season in the works including tours to New England, the Carolinas, Colorado, the Northwest, upper Midwest, and Europe!

Spring World Tour Announced!

Posted by: Ryan on March 8, 2016 @ 4:25 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Okay, well it’s not quite a world tour but it’s getting closer!  🙂 It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time (at least 20 years) to lead a band on tour through Europe and it’s happening in one week!  Tour dates below. We’ll also have a nice little run through DC and North Carolina. LOOK OUT, Catharsis is coming!

2016 CD release tour small

Order our upcoming record now and watch our first music video!

Posted by: Ryan on February 15, 2016 @ 3:46 am
Filed under: Catharsis, Events, Press

Watch our debut Music Video now!

You can now order our newest record Azul Infinito. ORDER HERE on iTunes or HERE on Greenleaf Music (preferred)

We had a great run in California and Montana this past month.  Look for us in NYC (Jazz Standard on March 15th), Bergamo Italy (March 17th), London (Pizza Express on March 18th), Cork (Crane Lane Theater on March 20th), Paris (Duc de Lombards on March 21st), Durham (Carolina Theatre on April 1st), and Philadelphia (Center City Jazz Fest on April 30th)!

Hello friends! I am incredibly excited to announce that our upcoming Greenleaf Music album, called Azul Infinito, is now available on iTunes, Amazon or Greenleaf Music. This music represents a first for me and the band on many levels.
– it’s my first attempt at writing music inspired by time spent performing with many incredible South American composers over the past 15 years including Pedro Giruado, Sebastian Cruz, Samuel Torres, Ivan Lins, and Emilio Solla (the record includes five originals and three covers – Pedro’s beautiful zamba, “La Ley Primera”, Sebastian Cruz’s “Canción Mandala” and Ivan Lins’ “Madalena”)

– it’s the first time I’ve written music with lyrics, here in collaboration with my long time friend and brilliant poet Manca Weeks (two songs from this collaboration are included on the record)

– it’s our first in-studio music video (made by none other than David Doob, the father of our drummer, Eric Doob. And, if you ask me, it’s pretty badass!)

– it’s our first tour to Europe (March 16-22)

Other exciting things to look for on this record are liner notes written by Grammy award-winning artist, Arturo O’Farrill (and by yours truly) and beautiful artwork by Maddy Sturm including a booklet insert with lyrics.

And, finally, this album documents what has been, and continues to be, a true working band made up of my absolute favorite musicians (and people) on the planet – Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, Camila Meza on vocals, Jorge Roeder on bass, and Eric Doob on drums. These musicians have brought a vitality, unparalleled musicianship, and commitment that I never could have imagined.
Azul Infinito Cover-Art