Ryan Keberle & Catharsis
Continue to Fight for Social Justice
on Langston Hughes-inspired
The Hope I Hold
Acclaimed working band now features Camila Meza on guitar and vocals, Scott Robinson on sax and Keberle on keys and vocals in addition to trombone; The Hope I Hold also features four Catharsis Trio tracks.
“Ryan Keberle and Catharsis prove why they are one of the most progressive bands in modern jazz.”
Will Layman, PopMatters
“Despite the Dream” is a showcase for Meza’s clear, un-showy vocals. It’s a sharply political track, but its deceptively light rhythm and the steady pace of the horn solos keep it from becoming agitprop. Keberle’s solo has a joyful but bottom-heavy feel, like theme music for a cartoon elephant, while Scott Robinson’s saxophone has a big ’70s sound.”
Phil Freeman, Stereogum, The Month in Jazz, June 2019
“Ryan Keberle & Catharsis continue to make relevant music, the writing continues to mature, and the musicianship is of the highest caliber.”
Richard Kamins, Step Tempest
“The music on the recording both expands and streamlines the band’s sound. Mr. Keberle is heard on keyboards on some tracks, and the songs swell and recede in a graceful way reminiscent of the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Wordless vocals, lyrics and solos emerge from gorgeous weaves of musical textures.”
Martin Johnson, Wall Street Journal
“…all those tones give the music a lovely, splayed-out energy, turning his sighing compositions into big, open canvases.”
Giovanni Russonello, New York Times
“The Hope I Hold is a powerful album which documents the continuing evolution of this remarkable band.”
Thomas Cunniffe, Jazz History Online
“Keberle’s lyrical precision and Meza’s voice steer through mirror-image crosscurrents and conjunctions.”
John McDonough, Downbeat ★★★1/2
“Each instrument here maintains its own grain and its own fit within the pocket. And thank goodness for that sense of amalgamated looseness. With Catharsis, Keberle always seems to be hinting at something dangerous, maybe the danger of getting lost. This time, swimming in more colors, the music really starts to go there.”
Giovanni Russonello, Downbeat Hot Box Review ★★★1/2
“Musical polemics never have held much attraction for me, but Meza puts Keberle’s lyrics across so sweetly that the punch comes swathed in silk. The pair’s connection creates a shimmering contracts to the tougher elements beneath.”
James Hale, Downbeat Hot Box Review ★★★★
“A beautifully optimistic selection of compositions from Keberle accompanied by Meza’s soaring vocals. Highlights come on the opening suite and closing track, using a Langston Hughes poem as an incisive counterpoint to Trump’s shortsighted sloganeering.”
Ammar Talia, Downbeat Hot Box Review ★★★★
“The hope I hold is that Keberle and Catharsis will make more such optimistic and provocative music.”
J.D. Considine, JazzTimes
As with so many great working jazz bands, the trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle & Catharsis have become known for a specific, almost codified set of signatures. Critics writing for such outlets as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, Billboard, DownBeat and JazzTimes have praised Keberle’s inventive approach to small-group bandleading, writing and arranging. Take, for example, his group’s purposeful lack of a chordal instrument, which allowed Keberle and company to focus on urgent counterpoint and elastic rhythmic interplay. Or the fact that one of Catharsis’ frontline instruments was the crystalline voice of Chilean singer Camila Meza. Or Keberle’s determined belief that music can be a catalyst for justice and positive social change.
Now, after four acclaimed studio albums, Keberle & Catharsis are departing, expanding and progressing with their new full-length, The Hope I Hold, out June 28 on Greenleaf Music. It’s an album full of welcome firsts. To start, it’s the first Catharsis release to feature the genius multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson on saxophone, alongside band veterans Keberle, Meza, the Peruvian-born bassist Jorge Roeder and the drummer Eric Doob. Robinson, whom Keberle calls “my favorite living improvisor,” is a delightful presence throughout The Hope I Hold, his feathery lines and mellifluous tone providing a peerless grasp of the gamut of jazz history.
The new album also marks the debut of Meza as the group’s guitarist, in addition to her often wordless contributions as a vocalist; as Keberle puts it, “Camila being the masterful guitarist that she is, it simply made sense.” The Hope I Hold underscores Keberle’s evolving roles as well, and features him not only on trombone but on vocals and keyboards as well, showcasing crucial parts of his skill set that are deep-rooted yet unfamiliar even to many of his fans. (Interesting fact: For his first six years in New York City, Keberle worked at a Catholic church as a music director, singer, pianist and organist.) And on four tracks, Keberle, Meza and Roeder debut the Catharsis Trio, a resourceful, chamber-ish unit whose identity, at once unique yet undeniably based in the larger group’s language, was forged on a Japanese tour.
But perhaps the most important unfolding on The Hope I Hold relates to the album’s theme of optimism in the face of political and cultural corruption, building upon notions first expressed on 2017’s acclaimed Catharsis release, Find the Common, Shine a Light. Keberle’s experience working with the lyricist and poet Mantsa Miro (a.k.a. Manca Weeks) helped to ignite a burgeoning interest in songwriting and the complex ways in which words can artfully meld with music. So when Keberle came across “Let America Be America Again,” a virtuosic poem written by Langston Hughes in 1935, he felt compelled to incorporate its eerily (and sadly) relevant verse into his new work. “When I discuss this poem at concerts, the audience starts to chuckle once they hear the title—they think I’m joking,” Keberle explains. “They can’t believe how similar it is to another slogan we’re hearing these days.” Keberle appreciated the distinctly American duality at the poem’s core: Despite Hughes’ powerful and poignant assessment that the American Dream has been a fallacy for so many of the country’s disenfranchised citizens, the marathon piece also harbors a message of idealism—a hope that that Dream could one day become a reality.
In its narratives, The Hope I Hold is also informed deeply by Keberle’s extensive recent touring, which he was able to partake in due to a year-long sabbatical from Hunter College, where he’s been the director of jazz studies for the past 16 years. Wholly transformative, Keberle’s travels ranged far and wide, from the rural U.S. to all over Europe, Brazil, Cuba and Japan. In small town America, Keberle and his band found fervent, curious audiences with a serious thirst for the arts and culture that often goes unquenched; in Europe, with its considerable governmental support for the arts, listeners were, not surprisingly, discerning as well as enthusiastic. As in Cuba, exuberant music seemed to soundtrack every waking moment of life in Brazil; but below the festive South American rhythms on the street was an overwhelming specter of corporatization and corruption. “If you’ve ever wondered what the United States might look like after another 20 years of the kind of deregulation that our current administration is working hard to institute,” Keberle says, “just travel to Brazil.”
The music of Brazil—especially the genre-bending, psychedelia-tinged work of Milton Nascimento, Egberto Gismonti, Toninho Horta, Sérgio Mendes and others—is a potent influence on Keberle’s new album, along with so many other ideas and idioms. The album’s flagship is its Hughes-inspired namesake suite, a product of Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works grant program. The lead-off track, “Tangled in the Ancient Endless Chain,” acts as an overture of sorts, warming listeners up to Catharsis’ new sonic palette. “Despite the Dream” underscores Keberle’s recent obsession with South American music. A snowballing dirge, “America Will Be” is a stunning metaphor for strife through sound, and fans of Meza’s guitar playing will be surprised by her role here as an avant-rock provocateur. The nimble orchestral momentum of “Fooled and Pushed Apart” anticipates the retro atmosphere of “Campinas,” which wears its trippy Brazilian influences on its sleeve. (Keyboard collectors take note: Those great space-age analog synth tones are coming from Keberle’s Korg Minilogue.)
The trio portion, a kind of album-within-the-album that fits in seamlessly nonetheless, begins with Meza’s tender tour de force “Para Volar,” and continues with Roeder’s beautiful “Peering,” which constitutes the first of the bassist’s original compositions to appear on a recording. On the heartrending “Zamba,” by the legendary Argentinean folksinger Cuchi Leguizamón, Meza and Roeder form a breathtaking vocal tandem. An evocative new trio arrangement of Keberle’s “Become the Water” finds the trombonist on keyboard and harmony vocals.
Closing out the project is a return to the title suite called “Epilogue: Make America Again”—two minutes of stately, majestic harmony that Keberle describes as “a musical prayer for peace.”
“It’s a simple kind of hymn,” he adds. “And hopefully it will inspire some change in this country.”
Let America be America Again
– lyric excerpts
Tangled in the Ancient Endless Chain
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak, crush the weak.
I am the young (wo)man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Despite the Dream
I’m the one who dreamed,
a dream so strong, so brave, so true it sings.
For I’m, I’m the one who came
to build a homeland of the free.
(The free, the free, who said the free?
All the dreams we’ve dreamed,
and all the songs we’ve sung,
and hopes we’ve held.
The hordes who have nothing
except a dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again.
The land that never has been yet,
the land where everyman is free,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
America Will Be
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath –
America will be!
I’m thrilled to announce that
the latest Catharsis protest album,
Find the Common, Shine a Light,
is now available on Greenleaf Music!
The album is our response to growing political and social turmoil, and an urgent call for change
After 6 years of regular touring and performing, Catharsis, continues to evolve our collective sound while speaking out about our troubled times on Find the Common, Shine a Light. With six years of recording and extensive touring under their belt, the band stays true to our “potent blend of cinematic sweep and lush, ear-grabbing melodies” (Los Angeles Times) while opting for a more layered and multifaceted approach in the studio.
IN THE PRESS
“The album is unpretentiously intelligent and profoundly moving.”
“A project that could speak both to the current state of political unrest and to music’s ability to overcome it”
“Find The Common, Shine A Light, is a powerful work that brings in new interpretations of popular song as well as originals that breathe and seethe on our behalf.”
“Though it may be political, Find the Common, Shine a Light has reach. It moves Catharsis from an appealing band with a brilliant single idea to a group that can do just about anything.”
Become the Water
If I told you here
and now is all we have, would you still hear
me? What if we are blind,
all of us, imagining
there was a time
when great was real.
Our weakest link
is fear of losing greatness.
Get on stage before the curtain
falls, before the blind
messiah opens fire.
We are here to elevate, to greater.
Find the common, shine
a light. Become the water.
Put out the fire.
Through all the noise,
why do we only hear
what we already know?
Why don’t we think
the other side is here with us?
Why don’t we hear the sirens
wailing for us all?
Why don’t we fight
for greater common, not against
our people? Are we not here
to elevate us all?
Why do we let our fear
be greater than our greatness?
Where fear is king, compassion
is a beggar. Dethrone
the blind and elevate the kind.
Find the common, shine
a light. Become the water.
Put out the fire.
Azul Infinito, which features Ryan Keberle’s signature band, Catharsis, includes the vocals of Chilean singer Camila Meza, alongside a frontline of Keberle and GRAMMY-nominated trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, Peruvian-born bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob, creates a continuity of sound and aesthetic that could only have resulted from constant playing (often monthly around New York) for the past four years. From this continuity, they breathe as one and express a band aesthetic.
For Keberle, American music’s emotional power, which stems from the blues, is reflected in similarly cathartic afrocentric musical elements found in South American music. Fittingly, Jorge Luis Borges, the noted Argentine writer, called the cathartic act of experiencing art an “evento estético” or “aesthetic event.” As on past records, Keberle’s goal is to allow the listener to feel something through his thoughtful compositions and songs. “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,” says Keberle. “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.”
Azul Infinito press highlights:
“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.” – AllAboutJazz.com
“Azul Inifinito is [Ryan Keberle & Cartharsis’] best and most ambitious recording to date…propulsive and infectious, grooving and gorgeous.” – PopMatters.com
“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
“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
released March 4, 2016
Most jazz musicians avoid repetition dogmatically. But when Ryan Keberle realized he’d been playing the same eight-note phrase in all his recent warm-ups, the trombonist embraced his inclination. “As I started playing it more and more, I realized I wasn’t thinking of anything else,” he says. “You can reach a real state of mindfulness through repetition.” Keberle built the phrase into “Without a Thought,” the complex but gracefully flowing centerpiece of his new album, Into the Zone. It’s his first for Greenleaf Music—and arguably the most personal document yet from a trombonist and bandleader better known for his soloist role in famed large ensembles.
Into the Zone press highlights:
“a potent blend of cinematic sweep and lush, ear-grabbing melodies.” – Chris Barton, LA TIMES
“striking new CD” – Kevin Lowenthal, Boston Globe
“accessible and thoughtful, lyrical and cerebral…Keberle and his bandmates weave their voices together with supple ease and understated grace to conjure a collective sound that embraces the listener while rewarding closer attention.” – Shaun Brady, Downbeat
“a delight…The title track shows Keberle shares the taste for soft-edged minimalist grooves which seems to be the hallmark of New York-based musicians, in every style. But not many of them could conceive the lovely melodic curve that curves and droops over the top” – Ivan Hewitt, The Daily Telegraph
This EP is a rarity for jazz record releases today (in my opinion). A real working band (we’ve played on a monthly basis for almost 2 years now); playing live for thousands of listeners (albeit via the radio airways); we already had one gig under our belt the day of the performance so the band was super loose, in a tight kind of way, by the time of our WNYC performance; AND (this is the kicker) the music was captured by the highest quality vintage ribbon mics and sound board. These mics, by the way, are particularly great for brass instruments. Not too mention we had a great roady (Matt Merewitz) to keep us in line and provide us emotional support and Mexican breakfasts.
The result is a spontaneous, fresh, and cohesive live recording. I can honestly say its one of the highest quality live recordings (from musical and sonic perspectives) that I’ve ever been a part of and my band-mates agree.
Oh, and did I mention it has been mastered specially for digital downloads??
released 31 July 2013
Ryan Keberle – Trombone, Compositions, Arrangements
Mike Rodriguez – Trumpet
Jorge Roeder – Bass
Eric Doob – Drums
Recorded and Mixed live at WNYC on March 18, 2013
Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper
Album Cover photo by Amanda Gentile
Album design by Ryan Keberle
Used by permission from New York Public Radio and WNYC. For Soundcheck/WNYC: Host: John Schaefer, Executive Producer: Joel Meyer, Engineer: Paul Schneider
On his third CD, Music Is Emotion, Keberle combines that wealth of influence and experience into a bold group sound with the debut of his pianoless quartet, Catharsis. The band comprises some of the most compelling up-and-coming voices in jazz – trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Eric Doob – for a vigorous set of melodic invention, heavy groove, and a subtle indie rock sensibility.
“When you boil down everything else that you love about music, it really comes down to the emotional connection that people make with it,” Keberle says. “Good American popular music has this inherent emotional connection because of the history of the blues in our musical society. With all the social media and technology these days, it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to find that interaction on a personal level. So I’ve been trying to capture that more consciously in my own music.”
Music is Emotion press highlights:
“Trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle’s album Music Is Emotion (Alternate Side Records) introduces his piano-less quartet Catharsis and a sound so full of imaginative interplay and boundless energy that the band seems much larger” – Thomas Staudter, Downbeat
“In forming Catharsis, a piano-less quartet with two horns, bass and drums, Keberle left his self-admitted comfort zone, but it did him some good; this already-stellar artist reaches a new artistic peak with Music Is Emotion.” – Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz
When I sat down with Ryan to talk to about this record, I could not resist asking him about “the trombone problem” — i.e., the instrument’s lamentable underrepresentation in jazz, dating from pretty much the end of the big band era. I know many serious jazz musicians and fans who don’t own a single trombonist-led album — not even stone classics like The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson or Grachan Moncur’s Evolution.
Trombonists themselves are acutely aware of this, even legends like Bob Brookmeyer: “Sax players got all the girls because they were seated in the front row. Trumpeters got all the money because they were driving the band from the back row. Trombones sit in the middle and develop an interior life.” (Brookmeyer, I should point out, ditched the slide instrument in favor of the valve trombone early on.) But the trombone problem is about more than just lousy PR — there are fearsome technical obstacles to playing fluently in a contemporary jazz language on the trombone. Which certainly didn’t stop Ryan from trying: “I was one of those guys who didn’t listen to trombone records for a long time. For many years I was transcribing all saxophones and trumpets, then I got into pianists like Brad Mehldau and guitarists like Kurt Rosenwinkel… but really, you can’t play that stuff on trombone. You can play some of it, sure, but ultimately it’s going to sound like an approximation, rather than something that really stands on its own.” However, at the ripe age of 29, Ryan has finally made his peace with his horn: “I’ve had a realization —I’m glad I play the trombone. I feel very much in touch with it. I’ve stopped trying to play like a saxophone or a piano. Now, I’m listening to myself more. What I’m playing is what I’d be singing.”
The results of this shift in approach are evident in his dark, unburnished tone, the seamless flow of his phrasing, the architectural curve of his solos, his magnetic sense of groove, and most of all in his commitment to melody.
— Darcy James Argue, 2010
Heavy Dreaming press highlights:
“the best new jazz album of 2010 [Heavy Dreaming]”
– Fred Kaplan, Stereophile
“a sumptuous and spirited disc”
– Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen
“[Keberle] is clearly in the vanguard of a handful of stalwarts
re-introducing the trombone to now unaccustomed ears”
– Bob Gish, Jazz Inside
The five Keberle originals survey a range of light and dark moods, opaque and translucent harmonies. Keberle’s agile, authoritative horn cuts through like a beacon. The interplay of the two quartets is beautifully realized, and the brass treatments themselves are rich in variety – from dense four-part interludes to soaring soli unison writing, from bold foreground to subtle background. “Wedding Music” was written at the request of pianist Kris Davis and drummer Jeff Davis and performed at their nuptials by a brass trio. Keberle then expanded it for the present group. “Something Speaking,” by contrast, he scaled down from a big band arrangement for the Juilliard Jazz Ensemble. “What Goes Around” grew out of a writing exercise assigned to Keberle by master trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. (It used to have lyrics.) The ballad “When I’m Away” has an earlier provenance – Keberle wrote it at age 19. Taken together, this music reveals a sophistication and creative restlessness that is anything but common. Conversant with the tradition but current in spirit and unique in format, it gives us reason to be optimistic for Keberle’s, and jazz’s, future.
— David Adler, 2006
Ryan Keberle Double Quartet press highlights:
“neatly layered horn passages stand out throughout the disc,
which is distinguished by Keberle’s ever-cheerful solos.”
– Jazz Times
“sprawling, multi-themed approach to composition…
Double Quartet indicates Keberle’s flowering skills as a composer and arranger”
– All About Jazz
Discography as sideman
Zedd and Aloe Blacc, Candyman, TBA 2016
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Real Enemies, New Amsterdam 2016 *Grammy Award Nominee*
Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields, Artist Share 2015 *Grammy Award Winner*
Ryan Truesdale’s Gil Evans Project, Lines of Color, Artist Share 2015 *Grammy Award Nominee*
Nelson Foltz, Farewell, 2015
Dave Douglas, The Serial Sessions, Greenleaf Music 2015
Jeremy Flower, The Real Me, 2015
Stranger Cat, In the Wilderness, Independent 2015
David Bowie, Sue (Or in a Season of Crime), Parlophone 2014 *Grammy Award Winner*
Ryan Keberle & Catharsis, Into the Zone, Greenleaf 2014
Miguel Zenon, Identities are Changeable, Miel Music 2014 *Grammy Award Nominee
Emilio Solla y La Inestable de Brooklyn, Second Half, Independent 2014 *Grammy Award Nominee*
Cyrus von Hochstetter, In Darkness Still, Independent 2014
Sufjan Stevens/Nico Muhly, Planetarium, TBA 2014
Rufus Reid, Quiet Pride, Motema 2013 *Grammy Award Nominee*
Alan Ferber’s Expanded Ensemble, March Sublime, Sunnyside 2013 *Grammy Award Nominee*
Joe Fiedler’s Big Sackbut, Sackbut Stomp, Yellow Sound Label 2013
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Brooklyn Babylon, New Amsterdam 2013 *Grammy Award Nominee*
Paul Carlon, La Rumba is a Lovesome Thing, Zoho 2013
David Byrne/St. Vincent, Love This Giant, Todo Mundo 2012
Sofia Rei, De Tierra y Oro, 2012
Joe Fiedler’s Big Sackbut, Big Sackbut, Yellow Sound Label 2012
Ryan Truesdale’s Gil Evans Centennial Project, Gil Evans Centennial Project, Artist Share 2012 *Grammy Award Winner*
David Berger Jazz Orchestra, Sing Me a Love Song, Such Sweet Thunder 2010
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Infernal Machines, New Amsterdam 2009*Grammy Award Nominee*
Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra, El Viaje, PGM 2009
Paul Carlon Octet, Roots Propaganda, Deep Tone 2008
“In the Heights” Cast and Orchestra, “In the Heights”, Original Broadway Cast Recording, Ghostlight Records 2008 *Grammy Award Winner*
Madeline Peyroux, Travelin’ Light, TBA
Bjorkestra, Enjoy, Koch 2008
Alicia Keys, Superwoman, J Records 2007 *Grammy Award Winner*
Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, Sky Blue, Artist Share 2007 *Grammy Award Winner*
Au Revoir Simone, The Bird of Music, Moshi Moshi 2007
Brooklyn Qawwali Party, BQP, Brook Martinez 2007
David Berger and his Sultans of Swing, Champian, Such Sweet Thunder 2007
Paul Carlon Octet, Other Tongues, Deep Tone 2006
David Berger and his Sultans of Swing, Hindustan, Such Sweet Thunder 2006
Mayra Casales, Mujer Ardiente, Afrasia 2006
Dirty on Purpose, Hallelujah Sirens, North Street Records 2006
Barbarian Horde, Your Pleasure is our Business, BarbariansMusic 2006
Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra, Desconsuelo, PGM 2005
Ileana Santamaria Orchestra, What I Want, Ileana I. Santamaria 2005
David Berger and his Sultans of Swing, Marlowe, Such Sweet Thunder 2004
Fernando Otero, Plan, Twinz 2003
Pedro Giraudo, Mr. Vivo, PGM 2002
Three-Way Organ Trio, Three Way , Independent, Dublin, Ireland, 2001