CD REVIEW: Kait Dunton - Trio Kait

Kait Dunton - Trio Kait
(Real & Imagined Music R&I 003. CD review by Rob Mallows

Increasingly, many piano trios in contemporary jazz are reducing their reliance on red-hot soloing in favour of a more collective, constructed sound that’s reliant on strong melodies and an appeal to the emotions rather than the intellect. If that’s what it takes to make an album as fun as this, then I say more power to them.

Kait Dunton is the LA-based leader of this piano trio who, along with her bandmates bassist Cooper Appelt and drummer Jake Reed, has - on this, her third album - produced a singular sound that is all about the collective identity of the group. Rather like pioneers EST, Neil Cowley Trio and presently Robert Glasper, who’ve all sought to expand the horizons of jazz piano in different ways over the years - all with great commercial success, one might add - one senses Dunton is also seeking to squeeze as much juice out of the piano trio as she can.

A composer who seeks inspiration from electronica, rock, classical, R&B as well as jazz, this linkage to multiple musical sources of inspiration has helped Dunton strike the mother lode. She finds variety in rhythms, chord changes and tone, rather than pure improvisation and virtuosity. Not that she’s abandoned improvisation - it’s just she clearly doesn’t rely on it to create something compelling and utterly listenable.

Dunton has a choppy and angular style which cuts through on the opening track Prelude and pound out a confident melody that hints at what the album’s all about. Even relying solely on the acoustic piano on this album, she brings a rock-like power to her playing that creates a rich band sound.

Her rhythm section is perhaps the key to this album. Using electric bass rather than upright, Appelt achieves great cut-through in the sound on many of the tracks and adds some real colour higher up in the register which complements Dunton’s playing. The reliance on more rock-influenced rhythms from drummer Reed provides groove but never in any way that suggests this is anything but a jazz trio album.

Second track Channels - a more conventional ballad - is only 41 seconds of classical runs after which the album goes from first gear to fourth by leaping straight into funk-filled Chrysocolla. Time Travel, as its title suggests, is about finding creativity in the use of different and complex time signatures to illuminate the tune - the 7/4 rhythm fairly rushes along at breakneck speed conveying a simple tune. A great track that shows it’s not only pop music that can create three minute wonders. Yes is more late-night soul smoothness, with a gorgeously creamy bass sound that’s all about mood.

Album closer Customis a jazz-hip-hop confection so prevalent now on contemporary jazz albums, but this one is fairly benign. It has all the simple drum rhythms and dope-ass bass of street hip hop which call pall, but the repetitive melody is rather listenable and this track overall, while the weakest on the album, has a certain simplistic charm.

I was impressed by this album. The piano trio is a competitive market and any group must dig deep to find new musical avenues to explore and sounds to expand the listeners horizons and capture their attention. Trio Kait does this in spades.

When you thrown a lot of different musical influences into the jazz pot, you need a good chef to make the resulting meal palatable. On this evidence, Kait Dunton is already on her way to a Michelin star. Lovely album

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