Sunday, March 10, 2019
Concert Review: Ryan Keberle & Catharsis at Mod Gallery
Camila Meza sang “the order is rapidly fading” in a ravishingly melancholy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” at Mod Gallery on Sunday, March 3. How I wish it were so!
While the celebrated Chilean musician and her bandmates- trombonist Ryan Keberle, saxophonist John Ellis, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Eric Doob- were playing what Keberle characterized as political “protest music”- I couldn’t help but apply the sentiment to the group’s progressive musical approach.
Kansas City remains largely impervious to the charms of forward-thinking improvised music, an aversion reflected by the show’s attendance. Less than 20 people braved frigid conditions to pay the $15 cover charge. That’s even fewer than at the group’s free performance at Black Dolphin in 2018.
As Downbeat’s review of the band’s performance two days earlier in St. Louis and a 2014 appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert indicate, Catharsis is one of the most notable jazz-based touring groups of recent years.
With its surfeit of star power, emphasis on imaginative arrangements and commitment to banishing standard practices, the group resembles a modern-day Weather Report. The abundance of talent occasionally led to frustration. Individual expression was repressed in favor of a commitment to ensemble work. (I posted one of Meza's brief solo statements to Instagram.)
Ellis didn’t let loose until the last set was almost over. The saxophonist’s solo on “Fooled and Pushed Apart,” a composition inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again,” was as gloriously poignant as Ray Charles’ singing on “America the Beautiful.” It was the sort of inspiring statement that everyone in Kansas City deserves to hear. Yet for the time being, the times are a-changin’ elsewhere.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)