The Ryan Keberle Double Quartet's Heavy Dreaming

The best new jazz album of 2010 so far: the Ryan Keberle Double Quartet’s Heavy Dreaming (on the Alternate Side Records label). I’ve played it a dozen or so times in the month since I received an advance copy. It’s infectiously joyous, except when it’s movingly melancholic, and it’s head-spinning, too.

At 29, Keberle (pronounced KEB-er-lee) plays trombone in two of the best big bands out there, Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, and he seems to have picked up some pieces of technique from both: Argue’s knack for weaving rhythms within rhythms into a seamless web; Schneider’s way with lushly stacked harmonies and melodic lines that crest, flow, and (trickiest of all) develop.

The Double Quartet consists of a conventional trombone quartet (backed by piano, bass, and drums), augmented by a brass quartet (trumpet, a 2nd trombone, French horn, and tuba). It’s a rich, warm sound—and a tight ensemble too, including Frank Kimbrough on piano, John Clark on horn, and Marcus Rojas on tuba.

Keberle plays with an indigo tone and insouciantly sinuous phrasing. As Darcy James Argue writes in the liner notes, he’s the rare trombonist who doesn’t emulate a be-bop tenor saxophonist; he writes around the character of his own horn, deepening its resonances, molding its limits into strengths.

The album was recorded by Mike Marciano at Brooklyn’s Systems Two studios, and sounds as vivid and lively as most of his work.

Scott Atkinson's picture

This post is a good example of why jazz critics are valuable - if Fred hadn't written the note, I never would have heard of the album. As jazz ends up more and more on small labels, we need curators, people who can point us in the direction of interesting stuff. Thanks Fred. (Also, cdbaby had it here in two days - excellent!)