July 10, 2018
We have interviewed Ryan Keberle about the release of Suite Ravel, the new album by Reverso Project, that the musician leads together with Frank Woeste.
How did you develop the Reverso project?
My co-leader of Reverso, Paris-based pianist Frank Woeste and I met on a Dave Douglas recording session in 2015. He and I hit it off musically and decided to apply for a French American Exchange Grant which we received. That grant helped cover the costs of composing and recording the music of Suite Ravel and provided us with the momentum needed to get the project off of the ground. Fortunately, the project has since connected with listeners and promoters in both the USA and Europe which has led to a number of fun performances in both continents. We’ll be touring the USA this October 2018 and February 2019 and Europe in April 2019.
The line-up is quite unusual; how did you choose the musicians?
We knew that we wanted the sound of the project to convey a classical sensibility of some kind, given the Ravel inspiration, and we also knew that we wanted Jeff Ballard to play drums. Those directives, combined with the financial necessity of maintaining a small three to four-piece ensemble (it’s expensive to tour these days with any number of musicians let alone with more than four!) led us to consider cello rather than bass for the fourth instrument of the band. Frank immediately suggested Vincent Courtois, a beautiful improvising cellist and creative musician with a classical aesthetic.
How do you work on compositions and arrangements?
I generally compose by improvising at the piano, my second instrument. The piano is such a powerful musical tool allowing the composer to fully realize most, if not all, musical ideas. When I play something I like I quickly repeat the idea and record it with my iPhone voice recorder. Arranging is a much more organized and theoretical process which depends greatly on the type and size of the ensemble I’m arranging for. Generally speaking, however, I also arrange at the piano and try to create a sense of logic, structure, and musical cohesion as I expand my compositions to tell a story.
What is Jazz today, from your point of view?
Jazz is the music played by jazz musicians. Pretty simple and much more simple than many people out there would like you to think! What is a jazz musician? Someone who speaks the jazz language (any number of languages these days to choose from). My favourite jazz musicians are those who speak many of the various jazz languages from our tradition - i.e. New Orleans Jazz, Bebop, Free Jazz, etc., but also speak other non-jazz related musical languages.
Internet and the music: a curse or a gift?
The jury is very much still out on this question. It’s a wonderful tool for finding new audiences and disseminating one’s work, however, it has more or less completely wiped out all recording revenue for music creators, an important revenue stream in past years. If we lived in a society that wasn’t completely corrupted by corporate greed I think it could be a great thing, because perhaps we would have found a way to judicially divert a percentage of the huge amount of money made by Google and Apple on music streaming to music creators. Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened and most of the money now goes straight to giant tech companies and the three major global/corporate record labels.
Which is a dream that you would like to come true in the future?
A gig with Pat Metheny!
Which are your next projects?
I’m currently working on a new Catharsis album with original music inspired by the Langston Hughes poem “Let America be America Again”. Following the theme of our last album, Find the Common, Shine a Light, we are continuing to use music as a tool of social protest and have been fortunate to perform regularly around the world as we find different ways to bring positive social change through music. I also just finished recording an album of Brazilian music with a wonderful band based in Sao Paulo and also just debuted a book of my music arranged for big band in Brazil. My smaller Catharsis project, the Catharsis Trio, featuring Camila, Jorge and I playing and singing, will release an EP this Winter and I’m currently developing an interdisciplinary performance piece with a visual artist and choreographer with whom I perform in a solo capacity playing trombone, laptop and synthesizer. Lots going on!!!
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