I almost feel as if I'm channeling music when I improvise," says jazz saxophonist Ron Kerber. Performing at Chris's Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia on a warm November night, his eyes are shut, and at the climactic moments his countenance becomes mangled. Images can seize a jazz player's attention -- an old friend walking into the club, someone ordering a drink at the bar. "If I'm looking at things," he says, "it takes me away from that super-conscious place."

The veteran performer earns his keep with commercial gigs. He plays in pit orchestras for touring Broadway shows. He records music for television and radio commercials. He's a regular with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops. He has toured with Burt Bacharach and the fusion super-group Pieces of a Dream. And he has played on hundreds of albums.

But when Kerber wants to create his art, he plays jazz.

"The music I'm playing," he says, "is about throwing caution to the wind. It's not a formula. You never know what's gonna happen. There's an energy that comes from the surprise of it. I'm not even conscious of what I'm doing. It feels like I'm not playing at all."

Kerber only came of age as a composer in the past two or three years. He wrote the pieces for his album during the winter and spring of 2003, while on sabbatical from the University of the Arts, the conservatory where he teaches. The product, 'Round in Circles, was released this year on Dreambox.

For Kerber, inspiration is unpredictable. "I could be in my car, I could be anywhere," he says. "I get that inspiration for four or eight measures. Some of these tunes, 'Berliner Blau' (an up-tempo bebop jaunt), I wrote in five minutes." The lulling melody to "Ariel" was inspired by his eponymous daughter. The swinging "Jofa" was written for the late saxophonist Joe Farrel, and Kerber says: "Every time I play 'Jofa' I'm hearing Joe Farrel's voice in my head."

Kerber continues to work with other musicians in the community. He recently recorded an album with Ridl, who plays keys on Circles. In support of the album, Your Cheatin' Heart (and Other Works), they've been performing together in the tri-state region.

Look for Kerber in performances with that group and Brazilian jazz ensemble, Minas.


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