“Music Is Emotion” (Alternate Side), due out on Tuesday, is the worthy new album by Ryan Keberle, a young trombonist of vision and composure. Mr. Keberle has a warm, centered sound, and his writing feels as bright and unlabored on a rock dirge (“Nowhere to Go, Nothing to See”) as on a post-bop sparring session (“Big Kick Blues”). His current band is Catharsis, with Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, Jorge Roeder on bass and Eric Doob on drums: a pianoless acoustic quartet, seemingly intended to evoke groups led by the likes of Gerry Mulligan in the 1950s. (The closing track is “Blueport,” an Art Farmer tune that Mulligan often played; there and on Billy Strayhorn’s “Blues in Orbit” the saxophonist Scott Robinson takes a piquant guest turn.) But Mr. Keberle isn’t painted into a corner by his sense of history. His decision to include “Djohariah,” by Sufjan Stevens, isn’t indie-rock pandering so much as a new take on a song he has probably played many times with Mr. Stevens on tour. – Nate Chinen, The New York Times
Friday February 22, 2013
by Cormac Larkin
Trombone players end up doing lots of session work because, well, there just aren’t that many guys who can really play that uncompromising instrument. New York “boner” Ryan Keberle has plyed his horn everywhere from Maria Schneider’s Big Band to Beyoncé’s even bigger band. But like most self-respecting horn players, when left to his own devices Keberle heads to the deep end of the improvisational pool, and his third album as leader is a hard-grooving quartet session featuring trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob. There are echoes of Dave Holland’s chordless ensembles of the 1980s and ’90s, and some of the adventure of Dave Douglas’s small groups, but Keberle is beginning to condense his own eclectic experiences into a personal sound.
Two impressive, listenable, rising star trombonists who have also recorded brass choir type projects are represented in quartets on the CDs for this Winning Spins. Ryan Keberle and Jacob Garchik adopt the latest strategies of 21st century jazz, from intricate compositional and ensemble work to the tricky, shifting flex-rhythms that have largely supplanted the steady swing of mainstream jazz from the last century.
Music Is Emotion, Ryan Keberle and Catharsis (Alternate Side), is a showcase for trombonist Keberle’s quartet, reminiscent of the piano-less, guitar-less quartets of Gerry Mulligan and Ornette Coleman. But whereas those two bandleaders combined a brass and a reed instrument over bass and drums, Keberle employs two brass instruments, adding Mike Rodriguez’s trumpet— part of the brass quartet half of his Double Quartet from 2010’s Heavy Dreaming (Alternate Side)—along with Jorge Roeder’s bass and Eric Doob’s drums. In an update of Mulligan’s concept, Keberle engages in copious two-horn polyphony in both ensemble and tandem solo passages throughout the album. But his pieces, as well as arrangements of other’s works, are richly episodic, so the quartet conveys the impression of a much larger ensemble.
Five of the ten tracks are Keberle originals that range from the jaunty, staccato “Big Kick Blues,” with an evocative, sinuously vocal solo from the leader’s open horn, to tunes that move through odd time signatures, sharp dynamics and accelerating/decelerating tempos, like “Carbon Neutral,” rising from bowed bass and slowly harmonizing horns to charging, chattering rhythms and back again, or “Key Adjustment” with its agitated rhythms and close, unison and polyphonal horn exchanges. Other pieces have a dramatic, cinematic quality to them: “Need Some Time” builds from a slow shuffle to a heraldic waltz-march; the cakewalk, prancing feel, suggesting 7/4, of “Nowhere to Go, Nothing to See” is also notable for the intertwining of horns over bass and brushes.
The five non-originals include two blues form jazz classics: Billy Strayhorn’s “Blues in Orbit” and Art Farmer’s “Blueport;” both feature guest Scott Robinson on tenor sax. Bassist Roeder and Robinson share the solo honors on the Strayhorn tune, given a ducal feel in the ensemble and theme, while “Blueport” is arranged to recall the deft, smart charts of the midsize groups that recorded in the late 1950s and 1960s approach with stop-times, shout choruses and snappy solo turns. Tracks from the pens of pop/rock singers Nedelle Torrisi and Sufjan Stevens are turned into mini-suites in Keberle’s hands and he has arranged a meditative, moving version of John Lennon’s “Julia.” It all adds up to a remarkably inclusive and surprisingly diverse and expansive album by what is for the most part a minimal quartet.