ARTIST FEATURE: Ryan Keberle from ‘Overcome’

We continue our features on the musicians who contributed to the album Overcome, and this time we’re hearing from trombonist, composer, and bandleader (and Greenleaf artist!) Ryan Keberle.

Ryan has performed and recorded with musicians in many genres, including the Maria Schneider Orchestra, David Bowie, Sufjan Stevens, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, the Saturday Night Live house band, Rufus Reid, Wynton Marsalis, Ivan Lins, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, and the big bands of Pedro Giraudo and Miguel Zenón. His own projects include his acclaimed piano-less group Catharsis, which has released four albums with us, the Big Band Living Legacy Project, and Reverso, a chamber-jazz collaboration co-led with French pianist Frank Woeste.

What are the projects most dear to you during this time of separation? Any special musical experiences you’ve encountered?

Like most people, my life has completely shifted in terms of the way I spend my time. Things that I’ve come to greatly appreciate over this past year are my regular morning yoga and trombone practice routines, allowing me to practice more than I ever have in my adult life! I’ve also acquired a number of power tools and large gas powered outdoor machinery which I have enjoyed learning how to use while helping my wife with her home renovation business here in the Sullivan County Catskills. Musical experiences have been far and few between but each and every one that I’ve been lucky enough to participate in, both virtually and in person, consistently remind me of how important making music with other human beings is and the joy and purpose it brings to my life.

What adaptations did you have to make to record yourself?

I believe it was March 21 of last year that I purchased an RE-20 microphone, a good pair of open ear monitor headphones to start recording myself with at a professional-ish level at home. I’ve been a part of well over 50 different recording projects using this set up over the last thirteen months.

What contributions do music and the arts make to your life and to the life of our culture and society?

For me, music is life. The emotion I feel while listening to music is the reason I became a professional musician and getting to make music, especially music that is created by a group of musicians all working and breathing together, have comprised many of the highlights of my life. Obviously, I miss those experiences deeply during these pandemic times. The Arts have allowed me to experience things and to convey ideas that are bigger than any one person, and more meaningful than anything I could ever verbally say or experience as an individual. The Arts bring us together, it allows us to form and connect as a community, and it encourages our listeners to think for themselves and to develop their own ability to more deeply listen not only to music but to each other.

Does the unity of purpose we felt in making Overcome during a time of widespread social justice movements and a crucial election carry on in this new period of transition?

While I have not been as outspoken since January 20, 2021, my commitment to social justice and to using music and the Arts to bring about positive social change is as intense as ever. If anything, these last four years have shown me just how powerful music and the Arts can be in terms of connecting with people in ways that would never be possible otherwise.

What is your latest project either in development or recently emerged?

I have two albums in the works. Both of which were recorded pre-pandemic and both of which have been on the back burner as a result of the pandemic. However, I just finished mixing and mastering both new albums which will be coming out later this year. The first is with my Brazilian project, Collectiv do Brasil, playing original music inspired by Milton Nascimento and Toninho Horta and features some of the baddest musicians in Sao Paulo. The second is a live recording featuring my chamber jazz band, Reverso, recorded in Paris in March 2020 just before the pandemic lockdown took effect. Keep an eye out for those!

We asked Dave Douglas about Ryan’s contributions to the Overcome album:

Ryan knew exactly what to do with these tracks. He has a way with a microphone. The tracks came in so full of sound and heat. So full of soul. The interactions were uncanny. As the compositions were written to be played without piano or guitar, the intertwined counterpoint of the trumpet and trombone needed to fully capture the harmonic motion of each piece. I built some of that in with the writing, but also left enough freedom that Ryan could converse with the existing trumpet. He played to them with a keenly devoted ear.

Support the campaign to put Overcome on a Limited Edition 12″ LP here before it ends on May 15th.