Music is Emotion

by Ryan Keberle and Catharsis

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about

released on Alternate Side Records 2013

Catharsis is:

Ryan Keberle - Trombone
Mike Rodriguez - Trumpet
Jorge Roeder - Bass
Eric Doob - Drums

Special Guest: Scott Robinson (appears on Blues in Orbit and Blueport)

all arrangements by Ryan Keberle

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; hip-hop and R&B superstars like Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and Alicia Keys; Latin jazz leaders like Pedro Giraudo and Ivan Lins; played in the house band at Saturday Night Live, on the soundtracks of filmmakers like 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, 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.”

The title Music Is Emotion starkly states Keberle’s intentions, but they are equally evident in the music itself. With the absence of a chordal instrument, Keberle was driven to focus more keenly on melodic and rhythmic aspects, resulting in an album full of memorable tunes and intensely driving grooves.

The disc kicks immediately into gear with “Big Kick Blues,” a showcase for the ensemble that leads directly from a blues head into a bout of collective improvisation over a jaunty syncopated groove. It closes in much the same spirit, with the straightahead rave-up of “Blueport.” In between, the band explores territory from Latin rhythms to tender ballads to evocative atmospheres.

Time, in all its aspects, is a definite concern throughout the album. It comes to the fore on the meditative stroll of “Nowhere To Go Nothing To Do” and on “Need Some Time,” where complex rhythms stress the urgency of modern life. “I’m always reminding myself to try and make sure to stop and appreciate the time that I do have, regardless of how busy or crazy life may be,” Keberle explains.

One of the pressures that impinges on modern life is the environment, a subject Keberle broaches on the tense, cinematic “Carbon Neutral.” The piece was inspired by his own growing consciousness of ecological concerns, prompted by his wife’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy. “As the piece took shape it started to remind me of the times we’re in,” Keberle says. “There are still a lot of questions to be answered, but something has to be done. I’m still optimistic about our future, and I feel like the tune goes to a more optimistic place, but it ends on that sense of questioning because we’re obviously far from a solution.”

Keberle’s choice of material by other composers is revealing of his eclectic tastes and experiences. Lennon and McCartney stand directly beside Duke Ellington, as a moving rendition of The Beatles’ “Julia” is followed by “Blues in Orbit,” a lesser-known mood piece penned by Billy Strayhorn for the legendary composer and bandleader. Indie rock great Sufjan Stevens, who Keberle has toured extensively with, is represented by “Djohariah.” That tune is preceded by “The Show Must Go On,” a song by singer/songwriter Nedelle Torrisi of the band Cryptacize, who Keberle met on the Stevens tour.

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.”

credits

released February 19, 2013

Catharsis is:

Ryan Keberle - Trombone
Mike Rodriguez - Trumpet
Jorge Roeder - Bass
Eric Doob - Drums

Special Guest: Scott Robinson (appears on Blues in Orbit and Blueport)

Mike Rodriguez plays Yamaha trumpets.
Scott Robinson plays Vandoren reeds and mouthpieces.

Recorded in July 2012 at Systems Two Recording Studio, Brooklyn, NY.
Engineered, Mixed and Mastered by Mike Marciano
Produced by Ryan Keberle
Funding provided in part by a PSC-CUNY research grant
Design by Maddy Sturm/Image courtesy: NASA
Photography by Amanda Gentile

Record Label: Alternate Side Records
Catalog Number: ASR 006

Liner Notes:

Music is emotion. Though it might sound a little cliché, I believe this is why music is so important to so many people; why music and humankind have co-existed since the very beginning of humanity. The relationship between these two very important parts of human existence has, for me, evolved into one of the most powerful forces in my life. Some of my earliest memories evolve around music, such as conducting along with Vivaldi’sFour Seasons (Winter was my favorite!) standing atop an improvised podium built with books. I’ve known my whole life that - like my parents and grandparents - I was destined to become a professional musician. However, only recently have I truly come to understand why music meant and continues to mean so much to me. It’s really quite simple yet it took me 30 years to comprehend that music is emotion. Not only does music elicit emotion from both the performer and listener, but as a jazz musician music is the exposed heart and soul of the performer, and particularly for the improviser.

Music is emotion. This simple yet monumental fact carries with it profound implications which I have only recently begun to understand. Most music fans know the intense feelings listening to music can evoke, but how and why this happens is seldom discussed. These questions are typically left unexamined for risk of spoiling the music’s aura, and because of the music listener’s subjective tastes and opinions. It is undeniable, though, that music can convey and conjure intense emotional responses from both the listener and the performer. With this in mind it is maybe not surprising that the music which has withstood the test of time, in any genre, is at its core about emotional communication. For example, the music of Mozart and Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin, Ravel and Stravinsky, Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, Lady Day and Prez, Bean and Bird, Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, Ray Charles and Buddy Guy, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson and Prince, to name just a few. All of these artists convey a depth and sincerity of emotion that connects with generations of fans in a deeply intimate and personal way.

Today, however, popular music is driven less by emotion and more often by trends, good looks and popularity contests. Similarly, parts of the jazz world have lost sight of emotional communication blinded with virtuosic technique, mathematical musical complexity, and musical acrobatics. One exception to these trends can be found in the Indie Rock genre with it’s emotional honesty and sincerity guided by artists like Sufjan Stevens.

One reason for this disconnect in the Jazz world is the musical pedagogical model (this can clearly be seen in the jazz education arena) that embraces theory before substance, harmony before rhythm and melody, reading music before listening to music, and “licks” before musical stories, plots, characters and narrative. A second contributor is the lack of a formula for creating sincere emotional music.

Of course, one of the most effective tools in music education is listening to the musicians who have mastered what we, as artists, strive to do. Like many, I have an eclectic taste in music and have spent much time thinking about how such drastically different artists (from Louis Armstrong to Maria Schneider, Robert Johnson to Radiohead, Elis Regina to Celia Cruz) are able to cause similarly deep emotional responses. I believe that the common musical influence most responsible for linking these seemingly unrelated artists is the legacy of the African-American Blues tradition. The influence of the Blues, found in many forms, has helped shape almost every American (and many non-American) musical artists which can be traced throughout the lineage of American popular music beginning in the late 1800’s. Unfortunately, to many musicians today the Blues has become nothing more than a few cliché licks involving a recognizable scale mixed with growls and groans. Unfortunate because the harmony and theory that defines the Blues pales in importance when compared to the cathartic impetus that led to the formation of this idiom 125+ years ago and continues to guide many groundbreaking musicians today.

This record is about music from the heart and soul and not from the brain. It’s about learning from our musical forefathers and attempting to capture a small piece of the emotional drama that continues to bring their music to life, one of those pieces being the Blues. For me, what makes this band so special is that Mike, Jorge and Eric choose to play from the heart, even though they possess a dazzling amount of technique, schooling, and other intellect-related skills. And as like-minded musicians I hope Catharsis collectively expresses a group emotive message in addition to the individual.

The songs on this album, some originals and some arrangements of other incredible compositions, are all unified by my love for poignant melodies, compositional, rhythmic, and inter-ensemble counterpoint, dynamic grooves, and the Blues. Lacking a piano or guitar, the challenge in writing for Catharsis was finding and accessing the compositional tools to express my very pianistic ideas (I’ve been playing piano since the age of four) with only three voices (an occasional 4th emanating from the virtuosity of Jorge Roeder). Key Adjustment, as in making the adjustment from composing at a keyboard to composing for three single note voices, represents my answer to this compositional challenge. Carbon Neutral pays homage to a “green” epiphany I underwent two years ago as my wife acquired her Masters Degree in Environmental Science and Policy. Both Nowhere to Go, Nothing to See and Need Some Time reference the issue of time in it’s temporal and rhythmic forms. As a student of songwriting, I’m of course drawn to the music of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, et al., but also the songs of non-jazz composers such as Lennon and McCartney, Sting, Radiohead, and Sufjan Stevens. The Show Must Go On is a composition by an incredibly gifted vocalist/composer/bandleader in the non-jazz world, Nedelle Torrisi, who I had the pleasure to perform and tour with for over a year in Sufjan Stevens’ Age of Adz project.

Catharsis is the culmination of everything I’ve learned in my musical and personal lives. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many musicians who have helped guide me along this unending road to discovery, and I’d like to thank them immensely. People like Steve Turre, Justin DiCioccio, Gary Dial, David Berger, Wycliffe Gordon, Lenny Pickett, Maria Schneider, Pedro Giraudo, Darcy James Argue, Sufjan Stevens, Nedelle Torisi, Steve Moore, and many other spectacularly gifted musicians. The members of Catharsis, Mike, Jorge, and Eric, are the reason there is recorded documentation of these ideas. And finally, I’d like to thank my amazing wife, Erica, who continues to support, encourage, and challenge me to be the best person possible.

- Ryan Keberle, Nov. '12

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Ryan Keberle New York, New York

Few musicians have managed to navigate the richly varied avenues of New York City’s abundant music scene with the same passion and adaptability as trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle. Hailed by the New York Times as a “young trombonist of vision and composure”, Keberle’s diverse talents have earned him a place alongside a staggering array of legends, superstars, and up-and-coming innovators. ... more

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