Please visit www.katahdinsedge.com for the most up-to-date information, tour dates and video from SXSW.
With their debut Step Away, Katahdin's Edge was celebrated as a roguish jazz piano trio goading a languid standard into confrontation. Roots intact, they produced funk- and rock-inspired grooves with cunning licks and intrepid meter sampling. The Ridge, their latest release, evokes the same adventurous spirit while challenging the equilibrium of tradition and innovation they established two years ago.
The Ridge is where simple and evocative contends with infinite possibility, where composer and pianist Willie Myette unravels a new voice in the charged exchange between himself, bassist John Funkhouser, and drummer Mike Connors. A fourth voice emerges in disquieting sounds: a cool whistle like knives sharpening, a jarring squeal like rewinding tape on a reel on "Glad You Called," a strange chanting counterpart to the bass on the title track. The group marries audio effects like looping and distortion with the kinetic meter variations, aggressive improvisation, and haunting melodies that first established Katahdin's Edge as a trio of depth and drama.
From the buoyant melody that launches "Glad You Called" through the song's two mood shifts, serpentine sound effects break the surface; they mystify at first then unleash a rising and leaping crescendo. "The Path," rock ballad apparent, grows an understated melodic seed in two measured shoots that unfurl, rolling and sprightly, before a satisfying return to the source. But the understated must eventually yield to vigor, and so, the title track opens with rhythmic pluck then lurches into thematic leapfrog until a penetrating chant unites the trio in an elevating, captivating jaunt. Eerie distortions of staccato tapping and of a slide introduced to piano strings confirm a fresh pulse.
The adventurousness is contagious. Katahdin's Edge is out to play on The Ridge. They're charged with rock energy akin to Bad Plus or classic E.L.P. and are agile at cracking thematic and rhythmic nuts. Like Brad Mehldau and E.S.T., they optimize the arsenal of a trio with pioneering esprit de corps. Technological voicing has evolved their sound while Myette's compositions remain assured and melodically sophisticated.
A Berklee College of Music graduate, Myette departed Boston for Providence in 1996, created a unique instructional method for jazz piano, founded JazzKids®, and published about a dozen books, all aimed at teaching jazz and improvisation to children. Old friends Myette and Connors never stopped performing together since their college days. Connors, who has studied with Joe Hunt and Alan Dawson, has also shared the stage with Funkhouser, a former student of the New England Conservatory, who teaches at Berklee and has toured internationally with his own band, FunkHouse. The trio converged in 2002 to incite an alchemic flash. Step Away was released two years later, and was touted as "energetic, listener-friendly progressivism," avant-garde jazz that could satisfy an eclectic crowd. No matter how Katahdin's Edge evolves, no matter how far-out their exploits are on The Ridge, it's apparent that the group's mission grounds their music with uncanny authenticity.
Willie Myette - Piano & Composer
John Funkhouser - Bass
Mike Connors - Drums
The Ridge - 2006
Step Away - 2004
We have been playing on over 90 stations across the US and Canada
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Katahdin’s Edge combines the talents of pianist and composer Willie Myette, bassist John Funkhouser,...Katahdin’s Edge combines the talents of pianist and composer Willie Myette, bassist John Funkhouser, and drummer Mike Connors in a hard-charging trio that nods to tradition while keeping an eye on the horizon. On Step Away, the threesome unself-consciously updates the time-tested piano trio format with a fresh perspective.
Step Away starts out with Connors and the appropriately named Funkhouser laying down a slinky funk groove on the title track before Myette enters with his dense and percussive piano attack. The pianist’s staccato approach is more NPR theme than AACM avant-garde, but it nonetheless builds tension and retains the spikiness the band’s name evinces. Funkhouser’s bass sounds as resonant and woody as if he had nailed his strings to a giant sequoia, and his nimble solos, as on the skittering “Enigma,” never fail to engage.
Myette also shows a facility for ballads, which often refuse to remain quiet and polite, as on “Wagons of the Night,” a lovely melody that builds to a satisfying crescendo before winding back down. Myette’s compositions twist and turn and shift tempos, but never haphazardly, and what begins introspectively may wind up in improvisational free-fall.
And vice versa. On the dazzling “Zargonic Effect,” the trio jumps out of the gate with a romping, almost Eastern European vamp that somehow dissolves into a quiet piano solo, increases in intensity as the bass and drums return, and finally returns to the infectious vamp.
With playing this good and writing this strong, Myette, Funkhouser and Connors manage to pull off the tricky feat of sounding of their time, yet not limited to it.
Providence trio Katahdin's Edge cuts a groove in Texas
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Providence trio Katahdin's Edge cuts a groove in Texas 01:00 AM EST on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 BY ...Providence trio Katahdin's Edge cuts a groove in Texas
01:00 AM EST on Tuesday, March 21, 2006
BY PARRY GETTELMAN
Special to The Journal
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Booking a flight into Houston instead of Austin would save Providence jazz trio Katahdin's Edge hundreds of dollars on its first-ever trip to the South by Southwest Music + Media Conference, and the 7:50 a.m. return wouldn't be too big a deal. The band's Saturday night showcase would be over before 10 p.m., leaving plenty of time to drive back to Houston and catch some sleep before heading to the airport Sunday morning.
But although Austin, Texas, has a reputation as the most laid-back of cities, its SXSW music festival can be an endurance test -- both for fans striving to see as many of the 1,300-plus showcasing acts as possible, and of the artists trying to maximize their exposure to listeners, journalists, record companies, distributors, booking agents, and anyone else who can help their careers.
"What's great as a musician is to drive down the street with the window down, and hear band, band, band, band, music, music, music, music," enthused Katahdin's Edge pianist Willie Myette Saturday, a few hours before the group's showcase. "You can imagine what it must have been like in New York back in the day, on 52nd Street."
But the group's real purpose was not to check out the competition.
"Our goal in coming down here is first to play some good music, play the best we can, play as much as we can, and meet as many people as we can, to try and establish some new connections," said Myette, sitting at a table outside the retro-chic Cafe Caffeine in South Austin with bassist John Funkhouser.
That resolve led the group to accept a last-minute invitation to play a Neil Young tribute at one of the dozens of unofficial parties surrounding this year's SXSW, which took place Wednesday through Sunday. Since 1987, the festival has grown from a small, regional affair into one of the music business' premier international conventions. In the afternoons, the whole of central Austin turns into a sprawling industry shindig, with seemingly every restaurant, record store, vintage clothing shop, coffeehouse and motel parking lot sprouting a stage.
Before leaving for SXSW, Myette, Funkhouser and drummer Mike Connors quickly worked up a cover of Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down." They flew into Houston Thursday evening, pulled into Austin about midnight, got up the next morning for a rehearsal and that afternoon played the party, co-sponsored by the Berklee College of Music, Myette's alma mater.
"Then we just crashed last night," said Myette Saturday, just before playing yet another last-minute gig at the coffee shop.
MYETTE HAD SPENT the morning scurrying around the Austin Convention Center with friend and publicist Ginny Shea, meeting-and-greeting at the SXSW trade show and doing a video interview for the SXSW Web site, www.sxsw.com. And now, in addition to a 6 p.m. show at Cafe Caffeine and the original 9 p.m. official SXSW showcase at the Elephant Room downtown, Katahdin's Edge was going to play the closing 1 a.m. slot at the Elephant Room as well, filling in for a band that had canceled.
"You might as well, if you're here already," said Myette, although he pronounced himself "kind of dazed" after a day-and-a-half whirlwind that included running around Austin to pick up rented equipment, as well as the schmoozing, playing and interviewing.
Funkhouser groaned comically now at the thought of that morning flight out of Houston, explaining: "I'm just thinking about the future."
SXSW has never hosted a sizable jazz contingent, so Katahdin's Edge might seem a bit of a tough sell. But as Myette explained, Katahdin's Edge is not a traditional jazz trio.
"We're jazz on the edge, fringe jazz, and it has a lot more rock and funk elements in it," Myette said. "There are definitely times when we're playing, we sound like a funk band. The only difference is, we're not playing in 4/4. We're playing in odd meters that give the music a whole different twist. Like there can be kind of a Middle Eastern/Balkan feel to it, and then you're hearing funk grooves that come along with it."
Turning to Funkhouser, Myette said, "You definitely play much heavier than if you were playing with a traditional jazz group, and it's the same thing at the piano. I approach it much differently, much heavier."
THE HANDFUL OF people at Cafe Caffeine initially seemed more interested in coffee than music, but they paid close attention as Myette, Connors and Funkhouser tossed musical ideas back and forth, building hummable riffs into dynamic, complex constructions atop that heavy bottom.
A few hours later at the Elephant Room, Katahdin's Edge found a packed house. Fans craned their necks around pillars or jockeyed for position near the small stage in the long, narrow room to watch Myette attack the piano.
He used his seat more as a launch pad than a resting place, sometimes bracing one foot against it. Occasionally he leaned inside the piano to pluck at the strings or knock out a rhythm on its lid. His electric organ received even rougher treatment, and two young men at a table up front yowled approval when he flipped the keyboard practically upside down and played it overhand.
The vigor of Connors' pounding moved a fan in a loud Western shirt to drape himself devotedly over the drummer's shoulder, until a female SXSW volunteer gently asked him to back off. After the set, a gaggle of male fans peppered Funkhouser with questions about his unusual acoustic/electric standup bass.
By the second set, at 1 a.m., the crowd had thinned, but the band was even more intense, and the listeners were even more intent. When the night finally ended, one new female convert in her late 20s bounced up and proclaimed: "That was crazy!"
There would be no swift departure for Houston, as fans lingered to ask for autographs, buy CDs or rhapsodize about the unusual time signatures. The female SXSW volunteers treated the band like indie-rock stars, getting their pictures taken with a grinning Myette.
SXSW had been a success. In addition to the enthusiastic response, Katahdin's Edge had attracted the attention of the Chicago Tribune's pop-music critic, and of a possible distributor for the group's second CD, The Ridge, set for self-release on May 2.
"I'm so beat! I'm fried!" Myette proclaimed happily, as he turned to talk to another new fan.
The next local appearance for Katahdin's Edge is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 17 at the Narrows Center for the Arts, 16 Anawan St., Fall River. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Call (508) 324-1926 or go to www.ncfta.org.
For more information on Katahdin's Edge, go to www.katahdinsedge.com.
Combining influences, pianist finds his edge
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By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | July 8, 2005 Willie Myette is an adventurous sort of gu...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."
Make way for this highly innovative jazz trio with exceptional substance and incredible musicality.
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Make way for this highly innovative jazz trio with exceptional substance and incredible musicality. ...Make way for this highly innovative jazz trio with exceptional substance and incredible musicality. Proving the fear wrong that dabbling in other genres dilutes the purity of the focus, Katahdin's Edge sneaks and slides in tastes from middle-eastern scales, to classical-tinged, expansive phrasing to a fervent groove that bumpity bumps along after the free-spirited melodies. From there, they turn the corner into darker and more introspective pockets of reflective, inward-turned pieces, delving into the seeds of harmony, flourishing with rushes of untamed emotion and human conviction. No doubt, this album is a must for the modern jazz seeker.
The music is at once thrillingly funky and then sedate before declaring revolution on the listener...
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Katahdin's Edge is the brainchild of pianist Willie Myette. The music is largely a cross between The...Katahdin's Edge is the brainchild of pianist Willie Myette. The music is largely a cross between The Bad Plus and Dave Brubeck—Structural and astructural at the same time. The music is at once thrillingly funky and then sedate before declaring revolution on the listener and going every which way. Myette's sheer musicality makes complex pieces such as “Step Away” and “Zargonic Effect” very listenable. John Funkhouser's bass is treated to very open solo space with drummer Mike Conner's keeping the entire soiree in time. This is a superb piece of avant-garde jazz that should satisfy fans for everyone from Harry Connick to MM&W.
-allaboutjazz.com (C. Michael Bailey)
Dr. Horner’s Classic Jazz Corner
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This trio, consisting of John Funkhouser on the bass, Willie Myette on the piano, and Mike Connors o...This trio, consisting of John Funkhouser on the bass, Willie Myette on the piano, and Mike Connors on the drums, absolutely blew me away. Their music reminds me of a creative cross between Brad Mehldau and Medeski, Martin, and Wood. I would take both jazz enthusiasts and jazz newbies to see them, because I truly believe both groups would enjoy this group.
-Dr. Horner’s Classic Jazz Corner
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It's simply wonderful to hear fresh talent like this, because the energy is always so "raw" & clearl...It's simply wonderful to hear fresh talent like this, because the energy is always so "raw" & clearly focused. The title track is (in my opinion) one of the best illustrations of that... it's my favorite cut, because it best represents what 21st Century jazz is all about... new views, & using tradition to build into a new era.
Zzaj Productions (Dick Metcalf)
Myette's articulate, intelligent constructions ...
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Myette's articulate, intelligent constructions intimate toward Bill Evans' soaring flights of sponta...Myette's articulate, intelligent constructions intimate toward Bill Evans' soaring flights of spontaneous, adventurous creativity, especially as “Wagons of the Night” and “Full Circle” tumble toward their conclusions like roaring, untamed musical waterfalls. His songs also feature a sense of simple—not simple-minded or simplistic, but uncluttered—reverence toward beauty that in its best moments suggests Keith Jarrett lost in reverie or the Pat Metheny Group. Not simple. Simply beautiful. Step Away proves a more than worthy addition to the modern jazz piano trio catalog.
AllAboutJazz.com (Chris M. Slawecki)
Rhythmic escapades that transport listeners to the edge...
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Rhythmic escapades that transport listeners to the edge best define Katahdin’s Edge, a 2004 release ...Rhythmic escapades that transport listeners to the edge best define Katahdin’s Edge, a 2004 release by Incline Records. Incorporated are arrangements offering a sense of hypnotic energy and mystifying intrigue with a slight touch, at times, of pure sensativity. This is jazz with a strong injection of ingenuity and creativity. Willie Myette (piano), Mike Connors (drums), and John Funkhouser (bass) evolve each note, with a focused vision; fashioning a new personality to each sound. An amazing performance has been burned on this disk, one that deserves our full attention accompanied with an open mind.
- jazznews.com and jazzreview.com (Karl Stober)
Step Away brings hefty doses of drama, depth, and movement to the table.
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Pianist Willie Myette proved he had a flair for melody and arranging on his recent solo outing, This...Pianist Willie Myette proved he had a flair for melody and arranging on his recent solo outing, This Is Jazz. Now Step Away brings hefty doses of drama, depth, and movement to the table. The title cut begins with an acid-jazzy rhythm track running under everything like white water, while Myette lays fleet and beautiful hooks atop it. The piece, and the disc, demand the listener’s attention and keeps it for the entire session. Sublime stuff.
-Providence Phoenix (Bob Gulla)
Katahdin's Edge originals
There are no upcoming dates at this time.