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Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Into The Zone

Dan Bilawsky By

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At the tail end of 2013, trombonist Ryan Keberle contributed an enlightened article-cum-manifesto to The NYC Jazz Record. In said piece, Keberle used Music Is Emotion (Alternate Side Records, 2013), the debut project from his piano-less quartet called Catharsis, as a springboard into discussion about left-brain vs. right-brain forms of creation, the importance of stressing musicality over complexity, and the need to find a way to that zen-like space where the music flows. The article—"Into The Zone"—foreshadowed the direction and title of this superb album.

On Into The Zone, there isn't any intentional showboating, musical haughtiness, needless complexity, or anything of the sort. Keberle practices what he preaches, delivering honest-to-goodness accessible music that doesn't only cater to those in the jazz-playing fraternity. Sure, there are sophisticated concepts at play and virtuosic solos to be heard, but that's not the point here; the point is to be honest and truthful in the art of creation and communication.

Over the course of eight songs, Keberle and company capture the imagination, exploring myriad moods and themes. Funky underpinnings, high spirits, drum showcasing, and a blue-laced horn lament come to the surface in a single work ("Inevitable Blues"); candombe-inspired rhythms lay the groundwork beneath ear-catching bass soloing and ghostly horn layering ("Gallop"); and the spirit of the blues comes to the surface on an updated Charlie Parker classic ("Cheryl"). All of it strikes a chord with the soul.

Keberle, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Jorge Roeder, drummer Eric Doob, and guest saxophonist Scott Robinson have the same strong chemistry here as on Music Is Emotion, so the obvious game-changer is the new addition—vocalist Camila Meza. Her oozing, caramel-coated vocals melt the heart on "Ballad Of The Sad Young Men," she adds new layers of emotional complexity and color to Cole Porter's "Easy To Love," and her wordless utterances elsewhere add to the surprisingly rich harmonies created by such a small outfit. In short, she's the perfect vocal reflection of the Keberle aesthetic.

The jazz world truly needs more musicians like Ryan Keberle, a supremely gifted artist who's willing and eager to prioritize emotion and humanity over ivory tower jazz intellectualism.

Track Listing: Inevitable Blues; Gallop; Ballad Of The Sad Young Men; Without A Thought; Simple Sermon; Cheryl; Easy To Love; Zone.

Personnel: Ryan Keberle: trombone, melodica; Mike Rodriguez: trumpet; Jorge Roeder: bass, bass FX; Eric Doob: drums; Camila Meza: vocals; Scott Robinson: tenor saxophone.

Title: Into The Zone | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Greenleaf Music

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