I will begin this series looking at a young trombonist who is making a significant showing on the New York jazz scene. Since moving there eight years ago, Ryan Keberle has proven he is the real deal, not only as a trombonist, but also as a composer and educator.
I was able to meet Ryan when we both attended school at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. While Whitworth is regularly noted as one of the best college jazz programs in the country, Ryan possessed the talent that would soon lead him to the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he would study with master trombonist Steve Turre.
It was Turre, or his absence, that brought Keberle to my attention once again. I will call myself the occasional Saturday Night Live viewer, and when I do manage to see the show, I tend to pay attention to the house band led by saxophonist Lenny Pickett (former bandleader of Tower of Power). I typically notice Steve Turre holding the trombone, easily spotted with his long black beard and sturdy frame. During my most recent viewing of the program, it was clearly not Turre on trombone. The young musician holding the trombone had a much slimmer build, no beard, and a head of hair far less tame than that of Turre. Further examination revealed the musician as Ryan Keberle, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Upon researching what Keberle has done since his arrival in New York, being surprised to see him playing with one of the top television bands might be as unfair as defining him as “emerging”. He has, in fact, emerged, and while his name might not be household among jazz trombone fans, it is in my opinion simply a matter of time.
Keberle is doing what all young musicians need to do: work. In fact he is working a lot, performing as a member of roughly 15 New York based ensembles, including the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Additionally his website notes performances or recordings with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Frank Wess, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, Charles McPherson, the late Percy Heath, Teo Macero, Joe Lovano, Eric Reed, Ivan Lins, Jon Hendricks, Madeline Peyroux, and Alicia Keys among others, and is the regular trombonist for the broadway musical, “In the Heights”.
Keberle released his debut album, The Ryan Keberle Double Quartet, in April of 2007. The album was a very unique concept, virtually molding two quartets (quartet one consisting of trombone, piano, bass, and drums, and a second brass quartet of trumpet, french horn, trombone, and tuba) into one fantastic sounding group. Great reviews followed, including reviews from the New York Times and Inside Connection.
Keberle recently returned home to Spokane to perform once again with the Whitworth Jazz Ensemble I, this time however, as the featured guest artist. Previous featured guests have included the likes of Gene Harris, Randy Brecker, Eric Reed, and Nicholas Payton, just to name a few.
Additionally, Ryan was selected as one of ten finalists for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trombone Competition. He also plays a role in jazz education, as he began his tenure as a visiting professor in 2004 at City University’s Hunter College.
Things look bright for Ryan Keberle, and the future only looks bigger and brighter for a musician who’s talents and capabilities continue to grow.
Watch Ryan Keberle solo with Gary Morgan’s PanAmericana in Central Park, August 2006: