The new album from Ryan Keberle & Catharsis was released on June 28.
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As with so many great working jazz bands, the trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle and his longtime band Catharsis have become known for a specific, almost codified set of signatures. Critics writing for such outlets as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, Billboard, DownBeat and JazzTimes have praised Keberle’s inventive approach to small-group bandleading, writing and arranging. Take, for example, his group’s purposeful lack of a chordal instrument, which allowed Keberle and company to focus on urgent counterpoint and elastic rhythmic interplay. Or the fact that one of Catharsis’ frontline instruments was the crystalline voice of Chilean singer Camila Meza. Or Keberle’s determined belief that music can be a catalyst for justice and positive social change.

Ryan Keberle and Catharsis prove why they are one of the most progressive bands in modern jazz. – PopMatters

Now, after four acclaimed studio albums, Keberle & Catharsis are departing, expanding and progressing with their new full-length, The Hope I Hold, released June 28. It’s an album full of welcome firsts. To start, it’s the first Catharsis release to feature the genius multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson on saxophone, alongside band veterans Keberle, Meza, the Peruvian-born bassist Jorge Roeder and the drummer Eric Doob. Robinson, whom Keberle calls “my favorite living improvisor,” is a delightful presence throughout The Hope I Hold, his feathery lines and mellifluous tone providing a peerless grasp of the gamut of jazz history.

The new album also marks the debut of Meza as the group’s guitarist, in addition to her often wordless contributions as a vocalist; as Keberle puts it, “Camila being the masterful guitarist that she is, it simply made sense.” The Hope I Hold underscores Keberle’s evolving roles as well, and features him not only on trombone but on vocals and keyboards as well, showcasing crucial parts of his skill set that are deep-rooted yet unfamiliar even to many of his fans. (Interesting fact: For his first six years in New York City, Keberle worked at a Catholic church as a music director, singer, pianist and organist.) And on four tracks, Keberle, Meza and Roeder debut the Catharsis Trio, a resourceful, chamber-ish unit whose identity, at once unique yet undeniably based in the larger group’s language, was forged on a Japanese tour.

But perhaps the most important unfolding on The Hope I Hold relates to the album’s theme of optimism in the face of political and cultural corruption, building upon notions first expressed on 2017’s acclaimed Catharsis release, Find the Common, Shine a Light. Keberle’s experience working with lyricist and poet Mantsa Miro (a.k.a. Manca Weeks) helped to ignite a burgeoning interest in songwriting and the complex ways in which words can artfully meld with music. So when Keberle came across “Let America Be America Again,” a virtuosic poem written by Langston Hughes in 1935, he felt compelled to incorporate its eerily (and sadly) relevant verse into his new work. When I discuss this poem at concerts, the audience starts to chuckle once they hear the title—they think I’m joking,” Keberle explains.They can’t believe how similar it is to another slogan we’re hearing these days.” Keberle appreciated the distinctly American duality at the poem’s core: Despite Hughes’ powerful and poignant assessment that the American Dream has been a fallacy for so many of the country’s disenfranchised citizens, the marathon piece also harbors a message of idealism—a hope that the dream could one day become a reality.

In its narratives, The Hope I Hold is also informed deeply by Keberle’s extensive recent touring, which he was able to partake in due to a year-long sabbatical from Hunter College, where he’s been the director of jazz studies for the past 16 years. Wholly transformative, Keberle’s travels ranged far and wide, from the rural U.S. to all over Europe, Brazil, Cuba and Japan. In small town America, Keberle and his band found fervent, curious audiences with a thirst for the arts and culture that often goes unquenched; in Europe, with its considerable governmental support for the arts, listeners were, not surprisingly, discerning as well as enthusiastic. As in Cuba, exuberant music seemed to soundtrack every waking moment of life in Brazil; but below the festive South American rhythms on the street was an overwhelming specter of corporatization and corruption. “If you’ve ever wondered what the United States might look like after another 20 years of the kind of deregulation that our current administration is working hard to institute,” Keberle says, “just travel to Brazil.

The music of Brazil—especially the genre-bending, psychedelia-tinged work of Milton Nascimento, Egberto Gismonti, Toninho Horta, Sérgio Mendes and others—is a potent influence on Keberle’s new album, along with so many other ideas and idioms. The album’s flagship is its Hughes-inspired namesake suite, a product of Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works grant program. The lead-off track, “Tangled in the Ancient Endless Chain,” acts as an overture of sorts, warming listeners up to Catharsis’ new sonic palette. “Despite the Dream” underscores Keberle’s recent obsession with South American music. A snowballing dirge, “America Will Be” is a stunning metaphor for strife through sound, and fans of Meza’s guitar playing will be surprised by her role here as an avant-rock provocateur. The nimble orchestral momentum of “Fooled and Pushed Apart” anticipates the retro atmosphere of “Campinas,” which wears its trippy Brazilian influences on its sleeve. (Keyboard collectors take note: Those great space-age analog synth tones are coming from Keberle’s Korg Minilogue.)

The trio portion, a kind of album-within-the-album that fits in seamlessly nonetheless, begins with Meza’s tender tour de forcePara Volar,” and continues with Roeder’s beautiful “Peering,” which constitutes the first of the bassist’s original compositions to appear on a recording. On the heartrending “Zamba,” by the legendary Argentinean folk singer Cuchi Leguizamón, Meza and Roeder form a breathtaking vocal tandem. An evocative new trio arrangement of Keberle’s “Become the Water” finds the trombonist on keyboard and harmony vocals.

Closing out the project is a return to the title suite called “Epilogue: Make America Again”—two minutes of stately, majestic harmony that Keberle describes as “a musical prayer for peace.”

Track Details

The Hope I Hold Suite:
1. Tangled in the Ancient Endless Chain
2. Despite the Dream
3. America Will Be
4. Fooled and Pushed Apart
5. Campinas

Introducing the Catharsis Trio:
6. Para Volar
7. Peering
8. Zamba de Lozano
9. Become the Water

10. Epilogue/Make America Again


Ryan Keberle – Trombone, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Korg Minilogue, Piano, Vocals
Camila Meza – Vocals, Guitar, Guitar FX
Scott Robinson – Tenor Saxophone
Jorge Roeder – Acoustic Bass, Electric Bass, Bass FX
Eric Doob – Drums

Production Credits

Recorded at D.A.D.S studio in Brooklyn, NY on September 12, 2018
Recorded at Figure 8 studio in Brooklyn, NY on September 13, 2018
Engineered by Eric Doob (D.A.D.S); Michael Coleman and Nate Mendelsohn (Figure 8)
Edited by Leo Sidran
Mixed by Alex Venguer
Mastered by Tyler McDiarmid

Produced by Ryan Keberle
Executive Producer – Dave Douglas

Artwork and Design by Ktu Meza

All arrangements by Ryan Keberle except Track 7 (Camila Meza) and Tracks 8 & 9 (Jorge Roeder).

Tracks 1 through 5, 9 & 10 music by Ryan Keberle (Groove Monkey Music / BMI); Tracks 1-3 lyrics by Langston Hughes; Track 6 music and lyrics by Camila Meza (Ambar Music / ASCAP); Track 7 music by Jorge Roeder (Jorge Roeder Music / SESAC) ; Track 8 lyrics by Manuel Jose Castillo and music by Gustavo “Cuchi” Leguizamon (WB Music Corp OBO Editorial Lagos / ASCAP); Track 9 lyrics by Mantsa Miro (Mantsa Miro / BMI)

The Hope I Hold by Ryan Keberle & Catharsis has been made possible with support from Chamber Music America’s 2016 New Jazz Works program funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Press Quotes

“Ryan Keberle and Catharsis prove why they are one of the most progressive bands in modern jazz.”
Will Layman, PopMatters

“Despite the Dream” is a showcase for Meza’s clear, un-showy vocals. It’s a sharply political track, but its deceptively light rhythm and the steady pace of the horn solos keep it from becoming agitprop. Keberle’s solo has a joyful but bottom-heavy feel, like theme music for a cartoon elephant, while Scott Robinson’s saxophone has a big ’70s sound.”
Phil Freeman, Stereogum, The Month in Jazz, June 2019

“Ryan Keberle & Catharsis continue to make relevant music, the writing continues to mature, and the musicianship is of the highest caliber.”
Richard Kamins, Step Tempest

“The music on the recording both expands and streamlines the band’s sound. Mr. Keberle is heard on keyboards on some tracks, and the songs swell and recede in a graceful way reminiscent of the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Wordless vocals, lyrics and solos emerge from gorgeous weaves of musical textures.”
Martin Johnson, Wall Street Journal

“…all those tones give the music a lovely, splayed-out energy, turning his sighing compositions into big, open canvases.”
Giovanni Russonello, New York Times

The Hope I Hold is a powerful album which documents the continuing evolution of this remarkable band.”
Thomas Cunniffe, Jazz History Online

“Keberle’s lyrical precision and Meza’s voice steer through mirror-image crosscurrents and conjunctions.”
John McDonough, Downbeat ★★★1/2

“Each instrument here maintains its own grain and its own fit within the pocket. And thank goodness for that sense of amalgamated looseness. With Catharsis, Keberle always seems to be hinting at something dangerous, maybe the danger of getting lost. This time, swimming in more colors, the music really starts to go there.”
Giovanni Russonello, Downbeat Hot Box Review ★★★1/2

“Musical polemics never have held much attraction for me, but Meza puts Keberle’s lyrics across so sweetly that the punch comes swathed in silk. The pair’s connection creates a shimmering contracts to the tougher elements beneath.”
James Hale, Downbeat Hot Box Review ★★★★

“A beautifully optimistic selection of compositions from Keberle accompanied by Meza’s soaring vocals. Highlights come on the opening suite and closing track, using a Langston Hughes poem as an incisive counterpoint to Trump’s shortsighted sloganeering.”
Ammar Talia, Downbeat Hot Box Review ★★★★

“The hope I hold is that Keberle and Catharsis will make more such optimistic and provocative music.”
J.D. Considine, JazzTimes