Oct 10 2013
Music is Emotion, the new album by Ryan Keberle, shows the remarkable balance that a new generation of jazz musicians are able to attain, and in some ways, are likely compelled to express.
Many of the new(er) jazz musicians on the scene did not grow up just listening to Jazz… nor did they strictly perform it. The varietal strains of modern jazz that are out there are influenced by the myriad forms that modern music takes. Classic music the artist listened to in their childhood and emerging music that they listen to in the current day, naturally, is going to color any type of creative expression they attempt to communicate. But just as the influences affect their own singular voices, they also look to forge those influences into something that resembles themselves. This acts as both a closing of the circle (communication with the original artist, with the song as the medium of interaction), but the establishment of a lineage, a continuation of that song by the current artist expressing it to a new generation of listeners, who may, one day, take up that same song and attempt to perform it themselves… and thus the line of tradition continues, passed to the next.
On Music Is Emotion, Keberle hits on the music of past and present, of jazz and not, of music that comes from him and music that comes from others, and brings it all together.
Your album personnel: Ryan Keberle (trombone), Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Jorge Roeder (bass), Eric Doob (drums), and guest: Scott Robinson (tenor sax).
The album opens with two originals, “Big Kick Blues” and “Need Some Time.” Both are straight-ahead tunes, but where the former takes the blues and makes it a thing to swing to, the latter bops with a punctuated cadence… upbeat. Where “Big Kick Blues” is old-school, “Need Some Time” is a modern post-bop, doing more stinging like a bee than floating like a butterfly. Both tunes provide Doob the opportunity to fire at will on drums, to great effect.
Keberle then transitions smoothly into his composition “Carbon Neutral,” a contemplative piece that speaks the language of Radiohead’s meditative drones and ambient sighs as much as it does the harmonic catapulting and melodic incursions of a Guillermo Klein or Omer Avital composition. It’s not just modern jazz… it’s the absorption of modern music into a jazz composition, creating something that pushes the envelope on what Jazz is. This same approach is found in “Key Adjustment,” which twirls its way up into a tempest, the melody like building blocks to achieve greater heights, attaining distances that extend far from the song’s opening salvo.
More of this is seen in “Nowhere to Go, Nothing to See,” a song with a mutating form, of harmonies that come unglued and melodies that drift languidly in the stiff breeze of indifferent rhythms. There’s a nonchalance and disinterest in form that just screams indie-rock, and Keberle’s quartet breathes in that scream and exhales it with the prettiest sigh. Rodriguez’s trumpet and Keberle’s trombone weave delicate harmonic tendrils around the melody, generating warmth where coolness is king.
The fingerprints of modern music continue with his renditions of indie-folk singer Sufjan Stevens’ “Djohoriah” and indie-pop singer Nedelle Torrisi’s “The Show Must Go On.” Featuring an impassioned solo by bassist Roeder, Keberle gives Stevens’ song a lightness of spirit not present in the original. Meanwhile, on “The Show Must Go On,” Keberle adopts Torrisi’s trail of smoke demeanor, but accentuates it with cool blues interludes. Further emphasizing the cross-pollination that goes on with modern jazz musicians is that Keberle toured with Stevens, which is also how he met Torrisi. It’s not just other jazz ensembles that modern musicians tour with and collaborate, and the realm of influence is more than what the artist listens to on their home stereo.
And it’s not just modern influences that Keberle and his generation of jazz musicians draw from. Keberle starts out with a simple statement of melody on his rendition of the Beatles’ “Julia,” but then takes off the leash, and the quartet becomes increasingly raucous, irresistibly celebratory.
There’s also the old-school jazz covers of Bill Strayhorn’s “Blues in Orbit” and Art Farmer’s “Blueport.” Despite the album’s modern bent, it’s got thick roots tied to Jazz’s past, as well.
Tangentially, Keberle & Catharsis performed a few of the album tracks live for an in-studio radio performance for the WNYC show, Soundcheck. The album, the aptly titled Live at WNYC Soundcheck has the quartet keeping things close to the vest in terms of comparability to the studio versions. But “Big Kick Bounce” seems to have more spring in its step with the live rendition, “The Show Must Go On” plays fast and loose with its structure, and the rendition of “Julia” explodes with an abounding energy that manages somehow to exceed the studio version.
Your album personnel: Ryan Keberle (trombone), Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Jorge Roeder (bass), and Eric Doob (drums).
With the tools that technology provides the modern musician, both in terms of easier recording capabilities and internet retailing, it’d be nice to see more artists offering this kind of material… little EPs that can give fragments of additional music to fans who just couldn’t get enough with the studio release, and which cost the musician only an incremental additional effort and time to record something that they were already invested in for other reasons (in this instance, live promo performance for a local radio station).
There’s something very instructive here about the lay of the land for modern jazz. That, and some solid music, to boot.
Music Is Emotion released on Alternate Side Records, which may be Keberle’s own label.
Live at WNYC Soundcheck is Self-Produced.
Jazz from NYC.
Other Things You Should Know:
Keberle is a member of Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society big band. Look for a review of both of their albums in about a month. He’s also a member of Joe Fiedler‘s all-brass Big Sackbut ensemble. They have a new album coming out soon, but you can read a review of their last album HERE.
Nedelle Torrisi is a vocalist on Chris Schlarb‘s second Psychic Temple album. You can read about that HERE.