Visiting trombonist shares jazz expertise

by Denin Koch

Trombonist Ryan Keberle’s career has taken him to places far and wide, but on Wednesday, April 8, it brought him home to Spokane for a clinic in the Whitworth Music Building and a concert at the Bing Crosby Theater on Friday, April 10.

Keberle and his five-piece band, Catharsis, performed selections from their newest album, “Into the Zone,” in the band room on Wednesday for a gathering of jazz students and music lovers. Between tunes, the musicians also answered questions from audience members and spoke about their experiences in the music industry.

On Friday night, Keberle and Catharsis performed a selection of jazz standards, original music and covers for a full house in downtown Spokane. The concert was opened by the local Brent Edstrom Trio, which features three Whitworth jazz faculty.

The son of Dan Keberle, Whitworth’s Director of Jazz Studies, Ryan Keberle is a Spokane native and graduate of Mead High School. He attended Whitworth for a year before transferring to the Manhattan School of Music in New York to finish his undergraduate degree. So far in his career, he has collaborated with artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake. This was only his second business trip back home, the first being a guest feature with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra two years ago.

Keberle was enthusiastic about performing for his hometown crowd.

“Very exciting, obviously,” he said when asked about playing in Spokane. “Maybe I can change Spokane’s lack of appreciation for jazz music. Jazz for some people is a scary word. It’s a word that means you aren’t going to understand what’s going to happen. The term ‘jazz’ for so many people scares them away, but I’m looking to make music that everyone can enjoy.”

Students who attended the clinic and concert were inspired and motivated by Keberle’s performance. Sophomore trombonist Jonathan Bumpus was particularly excited to work with Keberle.

“I went to the concert in 2008 when he was the guest artist with the Whitworth Jazz Band and was just blown away,” Bumpus said. “He’s always just been a big inspiration to me”

Bumpus expressed gratitude and disbelief at the opportunity to learn from one of his heroes.

“It’s kind of surreal. I’ve admired his playing for a really long time, and to hear him and get his feedback on my playing was really crazy. I’m still just processing everything that happened,” Bumpus said.

Keberle offered advice on a variety of topics to those who attended his clinic. While he spoke much about the importance of practicing, his biggest advice had nothing to do with playing.

“Basically, it comes down to listening,” he said. “There’s so much more to music than what you hear at this point in your career. It’s like learning a language and the accent.”

Even now, Keberle said, he is continually surprised by the music he plays every day. “Every so often I say wow, I’ve never heard that before or I’m just starting to notice how this player swings differently from this player.”

Despite its decline in popularity, Keberle remains optimistic about the future of jazz music.

“So many exciting options happening right now where people are fusing different genres with jazz or fusing their own musical culture with jazz,” he said.

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