A listener recently asked about a pianist they heard on KNKX, who "sounded like Lyle Mays. Thanks!" A little research led me to L.A. based pianist Kait Dunton's cover of "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers. While she may remind you of the great keys player from the Pat Metheny Group, the TrioKAIT do things their own way.
A California girl, Dunton pursued language studies at the University of Virginia, but fell in love with jazz. She went on to earn a Masters in Music at the University of North Texas, where Dunton was an early member of Snarky Puppy. USC's Thornton School of Music followed, and Dunton is now armed with a Doctorate and teaches at the Los Angeles College of Music.
Formed about four years ago, TrioKAIT emphasizes that their music is designed for a threesome, in this case with Cooper Appelt on electric bass and Jake Reed at the drums. Kait Dunton features both acoustic and electric keys, both played with equal amounts of precision and passion.
Dunton and Appelt first met at UNT, and long-time collaborator Reed is a perfect third as these three dig deep into grooves most other trios can't touch. A left hand might play a bass line on acoustic piano while the right jabs at a fender rhodes, Appelt's bass working in support and dancing around melodies. Reed's drums can swing, but mostly pulse and push, a potent blend of jazz-rock-electro rhythms.
TrioKAIT have just released their third album, deceptively titled TrioKAIT 2, comprised of nearly all original compositions (aside from a fresh, otherworldly recording of the Willie Wonka ballad "Pure Imagination").
Impressively, TrioKAIT develop complex ideas and settle into hypnotic grooves while never losing touch with the listener. TrioKAIT 2 draws from the hooky hits of Casual, their previous album of covers, but with the band's own personality fully in the spotlight.
On this week's New Cool show, I'm playing "Frontier", a stone cold groover that took me back to the fun TV and movie themes of the 70s. Fun is the point, but the chops of each player really shine on this ebbing and flowing piece, I don't even miss the compelling counterpoint of Dunton's acoustic piano. Neither will you.
I've heard the good word that TrioKAIT is working on bringing their music to the open eared jazz fans of the Puget Sound region, and we will certainly keep you in the loop. Stay tuned!
The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5pm, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.