Sunday, September 21, 2014

R Keberle Catharsis Live & New CD, MG Jackson in New Haven & Prof Hoggard's 3-day Gig

Trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle certainly leads a busy life.  Besides leading his Double Quartet and his piano-less quartet Catharsis (pictured above, with vocalist Camila Meza), Keberle has toured with Sufjan Stevens, Maria Schneider's Orchestra, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and worked in Broadway show "pit bands."

Next week (9/30), Greenleaf Records will issue "Into The Zone", the 3rd CD in 2 years to feature Catharsis (2 full length CDs and a live, digital only, 3-song mini-Lp). Those of us who live in Connecticut have the opportunity to catch the CD-Release Party on Friday September 26 at The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme.  The quartet - Keberle, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob plus Ms. Meza - plays an eclectic mix of originals, standards  and tunes from the jazz and rock pantheon.  What is most impressive about the group is that they don't play as 2 horns with a rhythm section (which they can do very nicely as they have proven on "Blueport" from the group's debut "Music Is Emotion") - there are many moments in their music where each musician is playing melody or rhythm and others where they play independently.

Doors at The Side Door open at 7:30 p.m. with the first set at 8:30.  For more information, go to or call 860-434-0886.

There are a good many people who understand the concept of being "in the zone", a place where your natural ability takes over, time disappears and you feel like you own the world.  For Ryan Keberle, getting "Into The Zone" meant years of practice and playing, a Zen-like concentration that requires accepting one's strengths and shortcomings, letting go and being honest about one's goals and desires.

Not only does Ms. Meza join the band for the new recording but also long-time associate Scott Robinson (tenor saxophone) who adds a 4th voice to the front line as well as being a great soloist. On "Gallop", the various voices move in and around each other, doing an intricate dance that allows for counterpoint, for harmonies, for standout solos, all supported by an infectious rhythm. Ms. Meza delivers a lovely vocal on Fran Landesman's oft-recorded "Ballad of the Sad Young Men" - be sure to pay attention to how Keberle and Rodriguez play alongside the vocal plus, yet again, the strong contributions of Roeder and Doob.  Another brave choice is "Easy To Love", Cole Porter's classic tune - this version is closer to the ballad that Ella Fitzgerald recorded in 1956 than Billie Holiday's happier 1936 rendition. The arrangement behind Roeder's fine solo blends wordless vocals with the brass and reed. The playful interpretation of Charlie Parker's "Cheryl" owes much to the smart arrangement that pairs the tenor and trumpet echoing the melody that the trombonist plays.  The thoroughly modern rhythm section beneath Robinson's breathy solo "jumps" and "walks" then ratchets up the tension under the short but sweet 'bone spotlight that soon turns into a "give-and-take" with the trumpet.

"Zone" closes the program, a handsome melody for Ms. Meza's heartfelt vocal, moving out of its rubato opening into a slower tempo for her to extemporize, supported by Keberle on melodica. After another memorable bass solo, the trombone, trumpet and voice create lines that swirl around as the rhythm section builds the intensity, with Rodriguez's strong trumpet stepping out for a powerful solo.

"Into The Zone" has a clarity that makes one pay attention, a sharpness of focus that does not waver throughout the 8-song program.   Catharsis is a real ensemble, a quartet that has spent months (on and off) creating a group sound that is its own, one that becomes fuller (not diffused) with the addition of Camila Meza and Scott Robinson.  Ryan Keberle has, since coming to critical notice 15 years ago, proven to be a strong soloist and excellent section player while maturing into an excellent composer and arranger. If you can't catch the band on its latest tour, latch onto this CD - it's really good music!  For more information, go to

Enjoy "Zone", courtesy of Ryan Keberle and Greenleaf Music:

Hard to believe it's nearly 4 decades since Michael Gregory Jackson released his debut Lp, "Clarity."  The New Haven native wrote and arranged all the music, performing in a quartet with Wadada Leo Smith (with whom he would go on to produce and perform with in the early 2000s), Oliver Lake and David Murray.  After a flirtation with more commercial music, Jackson has created a busy career of producer, sideman, teacher and, occasionally, a performer.

He returns to the Elm City and to Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street, on Friday with a trio that features the creative Keith Witty (bass, electronics) and the powerful drummer Kenwood Dennard. Jackson, who will also have an "electronics" component in his arsenal, is calling this program "Spirit-Signal-Strata."  Well, there are 3 adventurous player so one should expect a fine evening of "serious fun."  They'll play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - go to for more information and reservations.

I can think of few things so rare as a 3-night gig in Middletown, CT, for a jazz group. However, Jay Hoggard is bringing a Quartet to Scatz Restaurant & Lounge, 139 Main Street Extension. Joining the good professor (Wesleyan University) and great vibraphonist will be Warren Byrd (piano), Belden Bullock (bass) and Alvin Carter Jr. (drums).  They'll play 2 sets - 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. - on Friday and Saturday (9/26 + 27) plus 2 more in Sunday at 4 and 6 p.m.  For reservations, call 860-347-2289.  To learn more about the Professor, go to  

Be sure to wish the always dapper and youthful looking Mr. Hoggard a Happy Birthday!  He turns 60 on September 24!  May he be blessed with good health and great music for many years to come.

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