New Album Announcement:
The Melodic Line
Ryan Keberle & Frank Woeste Team Up Again For Second Reverso Album, This Time In Trio Format with French Cellist Vincent Courtois
“The Melodic Line” finds inspiration in the music of “Les Six,” an early 20th century collective of French composers
Out 14 February 2020
on Out Note Records
Among the many reasons American trombonist Ryan Keberle and French pianist Frank Woeste started their co-led ensemble, Reverso, was that both saw their music as a two-way street. “We were interested not only in blending classical and jazz, but also in the historical significance of how jazz and classical have influenced each other over the last 120 years,” says Keberle. “And, still to this day, many musicians —Frank and I included — straddle both worlds.”
“I love the chamber music vibe that we have with this band,” adds Woeste. “Of course, this is jazz, because it’s very it’s improvised, but at the same time you can hear the classical background in it.”
That was certainly true of Suite Ravel, the group’s debut which took inspiration from the music of Maurice Ravel — particularly the piano suite “Le Tombeau de Couperin” — to create an album of classically informed jazz. With The Melodic Line, Reverso digs even deeper into the possibilities of classical/jazz cross-pollination by looking into the music of Les Six, a group of early 20th Century French composers whose members included Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honneger, and Germaine Tailleferre.
Why Les Six? Part of the answer lies in the Reverso origin story, in which Keberle and Woeste, who met during a Dave Douglas recording session in 2015, received a grant from the French American Jazz Exchange. “One of the stipulations of the grant was that the theme of the project needed to somehow incorporate French and/or American culture,” explains Keberle. “Both Frank and I were deeply involved in classical piano growing up and Ravel just happened to be our mutual favorite composer.
When it came time to make a second album, the two tried to find a focus that would be similar, but different. “We knew we wanted to stay in that world,” says Keberle. “We threw a bunch of composers and musical inspirations around, and finally settled on Les Six. We liked the fact that, musically, many of their compositions contain this “jazzy” sonority and aesthetic.”
Milhaud, in particular, has considerable cachet in the jazz world, in part because his 1923 ballet “La création du monde” included a reasonable approximation of Chicago-style jazz, but also because one of his later students was pianist Dave Brubeck.
Woeste was particularly interested in a suite of piano pieces Milhaud wrote while attached to the French Legion in Brazil between 1917-19. Called “Saudades,” the music drew heavily on folkloric Brazilian elements for its melodies and rhythms. “It was great fun to have that harmonic language from French music and also some Brazilian influences,” says Woeste.
Keberle, on the other hand, was intrigued by the music of Tailleferre, the sole female member of Les Six. “I was blown away by her music. She was someone I’d never even heard of,” he says. “Talking to my friends in the classical world, a lot of them hadn’t heard of her either. She was the forgotten member.” But as Keberle explored her work, particularly “Impromptu” and “Pastorales” for solo piano, “Sonatine for Violin and Piano,” “Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello,” and the film score for Bretagne, he was amazed by how much she had accomplished over her seventy-year career. “There’s a very diverse collection of musical styles and genres that she wrote in, and many different instrumentations, everything from operas to piano trios.”
Being composers as well as improvisors, Keberle and Woeste used their insights gained through playing and studying these pieces to create works of their own. “Frank and I have a very similar approach to composition,” Keberle says. After immersing himself in the music of Les Six, playing it on both piano and trombone, he finds that those influences will naturally work their way into his artistic expression. “I’m trying to get into as pure and uninhibited of a creative musical space as possible,” he says. “I’m essentially improvising when I compose.”
Similarly, when Woeste is writing for Reverso, he tries to “extract the DNA of a piece — bits of melody, bits of harmonic structure — and create something new from that. I want there to be a direct connection, not just to play the piece and put a rhythm under it.
It helps that Reverso doesn’t employ a standard jazz rhythm section. Although Suite Ravel used drummer Jeff Ballard alongside cellist Vincent Courtois, The Melodic Line uses only Courtois. “He is by far the most successful and critically acclaimed improvising cellist in Paris, perhaps in France, maybe even in all of Europe,” says Keberle. “And the resonance between trombone and cello is so beautiful. One of my favorite things to do is simply write unison lines with the two instruments. It’s just such a beautiful sound, so warm.”
“Not having a rhythm section means you can stretch the time a little bit,” adds Woeste. “You can add a lot of dynamics — crescendo, decrescendo. You can almost be as vibrant as a piano trio — piano with the violin and cello, except it’s with trombone.”
For more information, please contact Matt Merewitz at Fully Altered Media // 914-556-6358 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“that Ravelian line between jazz and classical
has never has been more symbiotic.”
“pulsating motifs. long painterly lines, open fields and pointillist statements into a fascinating whole… captivating chamber quartet.” – Jazz Times
“The combination of jazz and chamber influences feels not like a struggle for dominance, but rather two different musics effortlessly complementing one another.” – Best of Bandcamp February 2018
This project is supported by the French-American Jazz Exchange (FAJE), a program of FACE Foundation and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, in collaboration with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.
“The Libretto Dialogues”
Reverso – Suite Ravel brings together American trombonist and composer, Ryan Keberle, and French pianist and composer, Frank Woeste, for an album bridging jazz and chamber music realized by an outstanding quartet featuring French cellist, Vincent Courtois, and drummer and percussionist superstar, Jeff Ballard.
Not many composers have inspired jazz musicians as often or as intensely as Maurice Ravel. Ironically, Ravel was one of the first 20th century classical composers to acknowledge Jazz as a valuable inspiration. During his US tour in 1928 Ravel said:
« Vous, les Américains, prenez le jazz trop à la légère. Vous semblez y voir une musique de peu de valeur, vulgaire, éphémère. Alors qu’à mes yeux, c’est lui qui donnera naissance à la musique nationale des États-Unis. »
— Maurice Ravel, Avril 1928
“You Americans take jazz too lightly. You seem to see it as a music of little value, vulgar and ephemeral. In my point of view, it is jazz that will give rise to the national music of the United States.”
— Maurice Ravel, April 1928
Keberle and Woeste show us that jazz and “classical” music have become even more intertwined in today’s music world, since they began to intersect amongst Ravel and his contemporaries such as Satie, Stravinsky and Milhaud over 100 years earlier, mutually inspiring the other’s practitioners.
Keberle and Woeste draw particular inspiration from Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin”, a suite for solo piano by Maurice Ravel, composed between 1914 and 1917, in six movements based on those of a traditional Baroque suite.
Bridging the Atlantic through support from a French American Jazz Exchange grant, Woeste and Keberle explore the classic six movement French Baroque suite working with the characteristic movements of the Prelude, Fugue, Forlane, Rigaudon, Menuet, and Toccata, re-defining these movements within their own unique compositional languages while sometimes incorporating Ravel’s original melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic material.
Ryan Keberle and Frank Woeste met in 2015 while recording with acclaimed trumpeter and composer, Dave Douglas, where it became obvious that they had much in common musically. Shared backgrounds in jazz, but also in the classical and popular music traditions, made this collaboration a meeting of the minds made all the more intriguing with the addition of acclaimed French cellist, Vincent Courtois, and the French-based American superstar, Jeff Ballard, on drums along with Keberle’s trombone and Woeste’s piano.
April 20 – Chorus, Laussane
April 25 – Unterfahrt, Munich
April 26 – Katowice JazzArt Festival
Feb. 13 – Constellation, Chicago
Feb. 12 – Under the Radar, Newburgh, IN
Feb. 10 – Vesper Concert Series, Omaha
Feb. 9 – Noce, Des Moines
Feb. 8 – Kitano, NYC
Oct. 21 – St. Peter’s Church, New York City
Oct. 20 – Atlas Performing Arts Center, D.C.
Oct. 19 – Philadelphia Art Museum
Oct. 18 – Weinberg Arts Center, Frederick, MD
May 26 – Charlie Free, Vitrolles, France
May 25 – Club Nubia, Paris
Feb. 7 – The Jazz Gallery, New York City
Feb. 6 – Hunter College, New York City
Feb. 5 – Chris’s Jazz Cafe, Philadelphia
Feb. 4 – City of Asylum, Pittsburgh
Nov. 25, 2017 – Antony Jazz Festival, Paris
Nov. 24 – Jazzclub Hanover