Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Azul Infinito

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

ou need a magnifying glass to get through the copious liner notes of Azul Infinito, but it’s an illuminating slog. First, the composer-trombonist Ryan Keberle explains how a native of the suburbs of the Pacific Northwest fell in with South American musicians in New York, and how that pairing led to the eight hemispheric hybrid tunes comprising this disc. Then the pianist-composer Arturo O’Farrill weighs in with his unimpeachable enthusiasm for the endeavor.

But even if you don’t know a chacharena from a bullerengue, Azul Infinito captivates with its distinctive arrangements and skein of cultural fusions and juxtapositions. Fans of Keberle will appreciate how prominently and thoroughly he has incorporated rising-star vocalist Camila Meza into this latest project for his band Catharsis. The backgrounds of the pianoless quintet-Meza is Chilean, bassist Jorge Roeder is from Peru, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez has played with Gonzalo Rubalcaba, among others, and drummer Eric Doob has kept time for bands led by Paquito D’Rivera and Miguel Zenón-are astutely mined, along with the deep musical and cultural scholarship required of any Keberle project.

Six of the eight songs tip their cap to three composers with whom Keberle has performed-Pedro Giraudo of Argentina, Sebastian Cruz of Colombia and Ivan Lins of Brazil. Keberle rearranges an existing song and composes another in the spirit of each. The Giraudo tribute leads off the disc with the churning, rondo-like “I Thought I Knew,” the chacharena which Keberle accurately describes as a “rhythmic tornado.” By contrast, the Giraudo ballad “La Ley Primera” is performed as a haunting, lonely variation of the elegant North Argentinian zamba, with lyrics commissioned by Keberle.

And so it goes. It’s fascinating to hear Keberle inject lush, gorgeous horn voicings into Cruz’s originally spare “Cancion Mandala,” for primarily vocal and violin, and to hear how much the bullerengue, an Afro-Colombian fertility dance, resembles reggae on “Mr. Azul.” Perhaps the quintessential tune on Azul Infinito is “Eternity of an Instant,” a majestic, suite-like procession of styles inspired by the tango band of Emilio Solia, with whom Keberle has performed.

Originally Published