trioKAIT 2 (Real & Imagined Music)
Released May 11, 2018
DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review
Kait has long kept her gaze fixed well beyond the obvious, but as the cover of trioKAIT 2 reveals, she and her close-knit bandmates are now set on an even more cosmic vision. trioKAIT’s third album showcases a new evolution in sound and form for the trio, expanding the acoustic piano/electric bass concept to include vintage keyboards, effects pedals and synthesizers. The album explores themes of discovery, change and imagination, while remaining grounded in the trio’s core values of composition and group sound.
trioKAIT 2 further evolves the collective voice that Dunton and her triomates — electric bassist Cooper Appelt and drummer Jake Reed — have forged together through tireless gigging and a shared open- mindedness during the past few years. A former member of Snarky Puppy during the band’s formative years in Texas, Dunton carries forward the same “family” approach into her own trio. Fittingly for three musicians based in the show biz capital of Los Angeles, where opportunities take a dizzying variety of forms, trioKAIT folds influences from pop, rock, film scoring and other styles into their unique twist on the piano trio.
The addition of classic keyboards like the Fender Rhodes and the Wurlitzer electric piano expands this eclecticism even further. “There’s such a wealth of sonic possibility in using keyboards and effects,” Dunton says. “As a composer I’ve always strived to see how modern I could get the acoustic piano to sound. But at the end of the day it’s still just an acoustic piano — there are inevitably limitations. As soon as I started getting into the world of effects pedals and synthesizers, I became newly inspired by the sounds and moods I could create with just the twist of a knob.”
Shockingly given the wide range of sounds she coaxes from her expanded toybox and the finesse with which she uses them, Dunton is still new to the world of keyboards and synthesizers. Six months prior to recording she was still an acoustic piano purist and had never worked with effects pedals or synthesizers, yet the album displays a full spectrum of environments and sonic approaches that finds her venturing down a stunning variety of new creative paths.
In keeping with the album’s celestial theme, the first track is “Re-Entry,” and the feeling is one of burning across a threshold and being thrust into a sudden moment of weightlessness. But with Dunton on the acoustic piano, it’s also an easing back into the sound-world of trioKAIT, exemplifying the
group’s knack for infectious melody, bracing groove and intensely locked-in but playful communication. Things take a turn with the wah wah-tinged Rhodes of “OCD,” reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s soulful ’70s offerings. “Nude” returns to the acoustic setting for a starkly emotional ballad that feels like a baring of the soul, while ”The Hunch” gets at the intuitive feeling that something’s not quite right. It’s followed by a pair of tunes that take the narrative idea into meta territory: “Thematic” is a pulsing synth
piece where atmospheric production and, naturally, the dramatic theme take precedence over soloing, while the non-eponymous “Title Track” shimmers in its airy open-endedness. The only non-original composition on the album is the Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley tune “Pure Imagination,” arranged to feel untethered from the bounds of gravity, free-floating and wispy as a scattering cloud. “Inner Space” turns the focus inward for a deliberately-paced anthem of self-reflection. The album nears its close by
getting looser and more exploratory: “Outlude” plays with layers of sound, while “Alkibo” cruises on a celebratory groove. “Thanks And Goodnight” is a final, slightly tongue-in-cheek send-off, dancing the trio offstage until the next time the curtain rises.
1. Re-Entry 4:03
2. OCD 3:57
3. Nude 5:19
4. The Hunch 4:02
5. Thematic 4:34
6. Title Track 4:40
7. J&J’s 6:06
8. Frontier 4:13
9. Pure Imagination 3:45
10. Inner Space 3:19
11. Outlude 2:35
12. Alkibo 4:09
13. Thanks And Goodnight 3:31
Kait Dunton: piano
Fender Rhodes: Wurlitzer electric piano, OB-6 analog synthesizer
Cooper Appelt: electric bass
Jake Reed: drums
Recorded on November 9 – 10, 2017 at Sphere Studios in Los Angeles by Rich Breen
Additional recording on January 2018, at The Mountain View Studio in South Pasadena, by Jake Reed
Produced by Kait Dunton
Mixed and Mastered by Rich Breen
Photography and album design by Peter Figen Photography
Onetime Snarky Puppy pianist Kait Dunton revives her eponymous trioKAIT with electric bassist Cooper Appelt and drummer Jake Reed for an artfully rendered follow-up to 2015’s self-titled debut. Where most recordings begin with takeoff, “Re-Entry” opens with the smoothest of landings. Such piano-centered tunes are the trio’s lifeblood, anchored by Dunton’s dynamic rhythm section. Whether igniting her art through the filter of a wahwah-infused Rhodes on “OCD” or exploring the funkier side of her Wurlitzer on “J&J’s,” Dunton brings a Technicolor sensibility to everything she touches. Though such tracks represent her first forays into synthesizer tessellations, her comfort level is such that it’d be difficult to figure her as an exclusively acoustic musician in the past. Despite a penchant for head-nodding arrangements, Dunton conveys the value of self-reflection on tunes like “Pure Imagination” (originally a tune from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory), before sending listeners flying at last in the whimsical “Thanks And Goodnight.” This is music devoid of pretension that, despite the album’s starry cover, is decidedly earthbound in its creature comforts.
Tyran Grillo (DownBeat)