Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Music to My Ears LXX

Thanks to Ginny at Mixed Media Promotion, I recently received a copy of the new CD by Katahdin's Edge, a progressive piano jazz trio based in Providence, Rhode Island. Led by composer and pianist Willie Myette, founder of the educational organization JazzKids, the trio released its second CD, The Ridge, early last month.

Two tracks in, I'm reminded of the Brad Mehldau Trio in terms of Katahdin's mellow songfulness -- occasionally walking the line of more ambient new-age piano music -- as well as the more forceful funk of Medeski Martin and Wood (although the latter comparison is more of a stretch). But this is no winsome Wine Country plinky-dink piano jazz. The tracks on this disc, even when not entirely driving, ebb and flow between aggression and sensitivity, making for a nice balance.

Bassist John Funkhouser is mixed relatively low, so the bass isn't a dominant instrument, but Mike Connors's percussion works ably to punctuate Myette's piano playing. With players associated with the Berklee College of Music, which I tend to associate with softer, Down Beat- and GRP-like jazz (versus, say, Cadence and Emanem), the trio is surprisingly fresh and emotive. Given the trio's name, Katahdin's Edge, and complementary comparisons to the stark mountain range in Maine, as well as the edgy aspects of the CD's title -- The Ridge -- the music is cutting and pointed, even if it waxes mellow at times.

As founder of the Boston-area jazz and improvised music mailing list Boss Improv, I'm a softy for regionally themed compositions, and the third track, "MTA," doesn't disappoint with its Ben Folds-meets-Vince Guaraldi approach to piano jazz.

Halfway through this listen, I know I'd be comfortable recommending this recording to the jazz DJ's at WNUR-FM, where I used to DJ. It doesn't push any envelopes, but the music resonates with several respectable styles and musicians -- and holds my interest quite easily. Not overly surprising, but not by rote, either. Worth a listen!

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