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CD Review: Ryan Keberle & Catharsis “The Hope I Hold”

Ryan Keberle & CatharsisThe Hope I Hold

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

On the timely and poignant The Hope I Hold, versatile trombonist and composer Ryan Keberle and his ensemble Catharsis continue to demonstrate their signature dynamic sound and their activism. Roughly one half of this socially conscious album draws inspiration from Harlem Renaissance leader Langston Hughes’ 1935 poem “Let America Be America Again.” The remainder of the tracks are thematically in the same vein.

Keberle’s melancholic trombone opens “Despite the Dreams”—languid lines underscored by resonant strings. Guitarist/vocalist Camila Meza articulates Hughes’ words with reverence and vibrant urgency as her warm voice floats within the dramatic atmosphere. Multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, who replaces trumpeter Mike Rodriguez in the band, enhances the tense ambience with his sinewy tenor saxophone. Keberle’s expansive solo embellishes the melody intelligently while the rhythms percolate in the background.

Equally cinematic is “Tangled in the Ancient Endless Chain,” with Keberle letting loose cascades of keys that meld with Meza’s reverberating strums. Drummer Eric Doob drives the piece with his splashing cymbals and galloping beats while Robinson improvises with elegance and soul. Meza’s darkly simmering guitar, with its muscular phrases, contributes an emotive, visceral element.

Meza’s captivating “Para Volar” has a breezy and sanguine feel that brims with Latin American folk influences. Meza underscores her own expressive singing with lyrical guitar chords. Meanwhile, her duet with Keberle is charming, memorable, and intensely poetic.

Bassist Jorge Roeder penned the crystalline “Peering.” His echoing thumps, together with Keberle’s buttery horn and Meza’s ethereal, wordless vocals and languid guitar, create a haunting three-way conversation. The fluid exchanges shimmer and glow with a shared passion and graceful, lilting agility.

Restlessly creative, Keberle continues to transform his music in intriguing ways. The Hope I Hold is simultaneously innovative and true to the artistic vision expressed in Keberle’s previous output. It is stylistically singular and culturally relevant; therefore it is a work that will stand the test of time.

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