Thirteen years after arriving in New York City, trombonist/composer Ryan Keberle has performed with a jaw-dropping roster of legendary musicians across a vast array of styles. At 32, his resume is more eclectic and impressive than that of many musicians twice his age.
Keberle has performed with jazz greats including Maria Schneider and Wynton Marsalis as well as being an original member of up-and-comer Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society; hip-hop and R&B superstars like Justin Timberlake, and Alicia Keys; Latin jazz leaders like Pedro Giraudo and Ivan Lins; contemporary disco band Escort; played in the house band at Saturday Night Live, on soundtracks of films by Woody Allen, and in the pit for the Tony-winning Broadway musical In the Heights; and most recently toured with indie rock ground-breaker Sufjan Stevens, ushering him into a new arena of fresh, emotionally charged music.
For a musician with such a stunning range of ability and experience, it can seem daunting to find a common thread running throughout the entire range of inspiration and influence. The shared influence that Keberle found as he studied all of the music he most responded to was the direct emotional connection with listeners stemming from a shared root in the blues. So he set out to forge just such a bond with his own music, assembling an incredible new group in the process.
On his third CD, Music Is Emotion (to be released by Alternate Side Records on Feb. 19, 2013), 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 in a news release. “Good 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.”
Born and raised by music educator parents in Spokane, Washington, Keberle started out playing classical violin and piano before adopting the trombone. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of renowned trombonist Steve Turre and became a member of Jazz at Juilliard’s first graduating class in 2003.
Keberle’s first two releases featured his Double Quartet, a malleable, brass-heavy octet that showcased his deft composing and arranging skills. Catharsis was formed in late 2010 after much experimenting with different line-ups. The four musicians gelled immediately and gave Keberle an opportunity to expand his compositional horizons.
“I’m very much piano-centric when it comes to arranging and composing,” he explains. “Catharsis pushed me out of that box and forced me to come at the music from more of a contrapuntal perspective. It’s really incredible how versatile these guys are; it was a meeting of the minds from the start.”