Katahdin's Edge, Ron Carter
January 1, 1970Just two pieces this week: the column profiled pianist Willie Myette of the trio Katahdin's Edge, and Ron Carter's Golden Striker Trio got the Calendar Jazz Pick write-up.
Managed to get to Montreal for two nights of the jazz festival this week as well. Saw Toots Thielemans and Sonny Rollins. Sonny was very nice to Kim when Ted and Anne Kurland brought us to see him after his set.
Had a smoked meat at Schwartz's, too. But two days in Montreal isn't enough time.
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Combining influences, pianist finds his edge
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | July 8, 2005
Willie Myette is an adventurous sort of guy who likes doing his own thing.
Not long after graduating from Berklee College of Music with a degree in film scoring, Myette moved to Providence and launched what has become a thriving little business in jazz education, consisting of several Myette-penned textbooks and a pair of websites.
The 32-year-old Myette has also led a couple of piano trios. The first of them, called simply the Willie Myette Trio, focused on covering jazz standards. The new group, Katahdin's Edge, was assembled to concentrate on Myette's own music, which uses odd time signatures, rock and funk rhythms, and other devices to push beyond the traditional jazz trio sound.
"I wanted to start getting away from just doing the standards and doing more original music," says Myette, who will perform a free concert at Berklee's David Friend Recital Hall on Wednesday, "and thus Katahdin's Edge was born."
Named for a hike Myette took on the Knife Edge route on Maine's Mount Katahdin, the trio consists of Myette on piano, John Funkhouser on upright bass, and Mike Connors on drums. The energetic, listener-friendly progressivism of "Step Away," last year's debut album, has earned Katahdin's Edge comparisons to Medeski Martin & Wood. But Myette cites other influences as being more substantial.
The odd time signatures, he says, come from intense listening to Brad Mehldau, Chris Potter, and Chris Speed's group Pachora. More significant still is the influence of two other untraditional jazz trios: the Bad Plus and EST.
"I love both those groups for different reasons," says Myette. "The Bad Plus has kind of taken rock tunes and set them in a jazz vein. They have some really interesting original tunes as well, but still, there's not as much compositionally there as, say, some of the EST tunes . . . [which are] a little bit lighter and almost folksy at times."
Myette aims to split the difference with Katahdin's Edge.
"I'm trying to find something that's in the middle there," he says, "where we can have some grit to it, some bite to the music harmonically and rhythmically, yet also not be playing stuff that's harmonically so difficult for someone to listen to where they won't be able to appreciate it."
Which isn't to say that his music is simple. Or smooth. But certainly Myette's Katahdin's Edge colleagues relate to it. Funkhouser and Connors work together as a team in other working jazz groups as well, among them Pierre Hurel's trio and trumpeter Jerry Sabatini's Sonic Explorers. Myette and Connors have known and played with each other for a dozen years or so, and Funkhouser — a part-time ear training professor at Berklee — hooked up with Myette three or four years ago when Connors recommended him for a gig.
"Basically, whatever Mike is interested in I'm usually interested in as well," says Funkhouser. "The thing I like about Katahdin's Edge specifically is that Willie's writing music that sort of draws on modern rock and this Balkan influence. It's sort of all over the map, in terms of the different kinds of music that he draws from."
That can mean anything from the klezmer influences heard on the album on "Enigma" and "Zargonic Effect" to the classical-sounding opener to his tune "Full Circle." But jazz is the primary element of Myette's music, even if it's almost never in straight 4/ 4 time.
Myette has been playing jazz since his dad taught him chords and jazz theory as a child in Saunderstown, R.I. Though he now specializes in teaching kids 6 and up, Myette himself didn't study piano or jazz formally until he was 15. But then he got serious in a hurry, scuttling plans to attend the US Naval Academy to attend Berklee.
It's been full-speed ahead ever since. Myette is already rehearsing Katahdin's Edge for a follow-up CD, which this time will probably include one cover. One possibility, he says, is the tune "Reflection" from the Disney movie "Mulan."
"I have an 8-year-old daughter, and we need a ballad on the CD," Myette explains. "I'm thinking, 'OK, let's do it in a way that's really hip. It doesn't destroy the song, but it brings it someplace where it might not have gone on its own."'
Whatever the cover ends up being, everything else on the new disc will be new material composed by Myette. After all, it's discovering his own sound that's most important to him.
"Berklee gives you a great education," he says. "But the work starts when you leave Berklee, because that's when you have to interpret everything that you've learned and start to find your own original voice."
Swingin' outdoors: Berklee will also be supplying the talent for "Swingin' in Mothers Rest," three free Wednesday-night outdoor concerts at Mothers Rest playground, located downstairs from the Boylston Street bridge in the Back Bay Fens.
The series begins July 13 with trumpeter Lin Biviano leading a sextet. On July 20, the Mike Tucker Quartet will perform with guest vocalist Esperanza Spalding. The series concludes July 27 with Terri Lyne Carrington and Rick DiMuzio directing the Berklee Jazz Workshop. Showtime is 6:30 p.m. Call 617-747-2447 for more information.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Ron Carter Golden Striker Trio
Regattabar, Charles Hotel, One Bennett St., Cambridge. 617-395-7757. 7:30 and 10 p.m. $25. Repeats Saturday.
The instrumentation is different, but Ron Carter's Golden Striker Trio nonetheless has a lot in common with the Modern Jazz Quartet. The trio takes its name from the tune by John Lewis, the MJQ's piano player.Both groups have recorded the adagio theme from Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuéz," a classical work initially brought to jazz by Carter's onetime employer, Miles Davis. As with the MJQ, the members of Carter's group all continue to have thriving careers of their own outside the group. Pianist Mulgrew Miller's excellent "Live at Yoshi's, Volume Two" came out from Max Jazz Records just last month, and guitarist Russell Malone put out his CD "Playground" on the same label in 2004. Bass great Carter, distinguished professor emeritus at City College of New York, was in Boston this spring to receive an honorary doctorate from Berklee and deliver the college's commencement address. These gentlemen are all all-stars, but they sublimate their individual talents into a group sound that swings with a stately, chamber music-like elegance akin to the MJQ's. With the recent death of the MJQ's last surviving member, Percy Heath, it's nice to have a group like Carter's around.
Sat 7-9 Rebecca Parris Besieged with health woes of late, the Boston-based vocalist is said to be back on her feet and raring to go for her annual appearance at Marblehead Summer Jazz. Unitarian-Universalist Church, 28 Mugford St., Marblehead. 781-631-1528..m. $24 advance, $26 door.