Ryan Keberle - Trombone
Mike Rodriguez - Trumpet
Jorge Roeder - Bass
Eric Doob - Drums
special guest - Scott Robinson (appears on Blues in Orbit and Blueport)
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at Systems Two Recording Studio by Mike Marciano
Design by Maddy Sturm
Photography by Amanda Gentile
Music is emotion. Though it might sound a little cliché, I believe this is why music is so important to so many people; why music and humankind have co-existed since the very beginning of humanity. The relationship between these two very important parts of human existence has, for me, evolved into one of the most powerful forces in my life. Some of my earliest memories evolve around music, such as conducting along with Vivaldi’sFour Seasons (Winter was my favorite!) standing atop an improvised podium built with books. I’ve known my whole life that - like my parents and grandparents - I was destined to become a professional musician. However, only recently have I truly come to understand why music meant and continues to mean so much to me. It’s really quite simple yet it took me 30 years to comprehend that music is emotion. Not only does music elicit emotion from both the performer and listener, but as a jazz musician music is the exposed heart and soul of the performer, and particularly for the improviser.
Music is emotion. This simple yet monumental fact carries with it profound implications which I have only recently begun to understand. Most music fans know the intense feelings listening to music can evoke, but how and why this happens is seldom discussed. These questions are typically left unexamined for risk of spoiling the music’s aura, and because of the music listener’s subjective tastes and opinions. It is undeniable, though, that music can convey and conjure intense emotional responses from both the listener and the performer. With this in mind it is maybe not surprising that the music which has withstood the test of time, in any genre, is at its core about emotional communication. For example, the music of Mozart and Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin, Ravel and Stravinsky, Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, Lady Day and Prez, Bean and Bird, Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, Ray Charles and Buddy Guy, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson and Prince, to name just a few. All of these artists convey a depth and sincerity of emotion that connects with generations of fans in a deeply intimate and personal way.
Today, however, popular music is driven less by emotion and more often by trends, good looks and popularity contests. Similarly, parts of the jazz world have lost sight of emotional communication blinded with virtuosic technique, mathematical musical complexity, and musical acrobatics. One exception to these trends can be found in the Indie Rock genre with it’s emotional honesty and sincerity guided by artists like Sufjan Stevens.
One reason for this disconnect in the Jazz world is the musical pedagogical model (this can clearly be seen in the jazz education arena) that embraces theory before substance, harmony before rhythm and melody, reading music before listening to music, and “licks” before musical stories, plots, characters and narrative. A second contributor is the lack of a formula for creating sincere emotional music.
Of course, one of the most effective tools in music education is listening to the musicians who have mastered what we, as artists, strive to do. Like many, I have an eclectic taste in music and have spent much time thinking about how such drastically different artists (from Louis Armstrong to Maria Schneider, Robert Johnson to Radiohead, Elis Regina to Celia Cruz) are able to cause similarly deep emotional responses. I believe that the common musical influence most responsible for linking these seemingly unrelated artists is the legacy of the African-American Blues tradition. The influence of the Blues, found in many forms, has helped shape almost every American (and many non-American) musical artists which can be traced throughout the lineage of American popular music beginning in the late 1800’s. Unfortunately, to many musicians today the Blues has become nothing more than a few cliché licks involving a recognizable scale mixed with growls and groans. Unfortunate because the harmony and theory that defines the Blues pales in importance when compared to the cathartic impetus that led to the formation of this idiom 125+ years ago and continues to guide many groundbreaking musicians today.
This record is about music from the heart and soul and not from the brain. It’s about learning from our musical forefathers and attempting to capture a small piece of the emotional drama that continues to bring their music to life, one of those pieces being the Blues. For me, what makes this band so special is that Mike, Jorge and Eric choose to play from the heart, even though they possess a dazzling amount of technique, schooling, and other intellect-related skills. And as like-minded musicians I hope Catharsis collectively expresses a group emotive message in addition to the individual.
The songs on this album, some originals and some arrangements of other incredible compositions, are all unified by my love for poignant melodies, compositional, rhythmic, and inter-ensemble counterpoint, dynamic grooves, and the Blues. Lacking a piano or guitar, the challenge in writing for Catharsis was finding and accessing the compositional tools to express my very pianistic ideas (I’ve been playing piano since the age of four) with only three voices (an occasional 4th emanating from the virtuosity of Jorge Roeder). Key Adjustment, as in making the adjustment from composing at a keyboard to composing for three single note voices, represents my answer to this compositional challenge. Carbon Neutral pays homage to a “green” epiphany I underwent two years ago as my wife acquired her Masters Degree in Environmental Science and Policy. Both Nowhere to Go, Nothing to See and Need Some Time reference the issue of time in it’s temporal and rhythmic forms. As a student of songwriting, I’m of course drawn to the music of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, et al., but also the songs of non-jazz composers such as Lennon and McCartney, Sting, Radiohead, and Sufjan Stevens. The Show Must Go On is a composition by an incredibly gifted vocalist/composer/bandleader in the non-jazz world, Nedelle Torrisi, who I had the pleasure to perform and tour with for over a year in Sufjan Stevens’ Age of Adz project.
Catharsis is the culmination of everything I’ve learned in my musical and personal lives. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many musicians who have helped guide me along this unending road to discovery, and I’d like to thank them immensely. People like Steve Turre, Justin DiCioccio, Gary Dial, David Berger, Wycliffe Gordon, Lenny Pickett, Maria Schneider, Pedro Giraudo, Darcy James Argue, Sufjan Stevens, Nedelle Torisi, Steve Moore, and many other spectacularly gifted musicians. The members of Catharsis, Mike, Jorge, and Eric, are the reason there is recorded documentation of these ideas. And finally, I’d like to thank my amazing wife, Erica, who continues to support, encourage, and challenge me to be the best person possible.