Kait Dunton returns to trio fusion in newest jazz album
Real & Imagined Music

In L.A., Kait Dunton stands out from the pack because of her ability to transform music into the most accessible but elevated art form. From her, music isn’t just a beautiful work of art; it is a textural feast for the senses, a constantly ebbing and flowing, pleasant sensation available to everybody. She appeals to the staunch jazz fans with her impeccably timed technique and free flowing bastion of improvisational inspiration that crosses into and out of the realms of the classical, funk, and straight-ahead. Yet, she also reaches the non-jazz fans with luxurious melodies that could never be called superfluous.

On November 11, Dunton sent out a tweet to both kinds of fans about her upcoming 2015 album, trioKAIT — a return to her personal style of jazz fusion for the trio after dabbling in a bit of classical/jazz composition on quintet (the 2012 Mountain Suite release).

Her tweet sent fans to a link for a preview. The preview hints at her affinity for both jazz and fusion in her new trio with bassist Cooper Appelt and drummer Jake Reed. “I am going in a new direction with this trio... bringing a fresh perspective to the classic piano trio format,” Dunton explained on December 6. “We explore modern genres such as fusion, R&B, and EDM — but with primarily acoustic instruments — excluding Cooper’s '63 P-Bass! …We have already had some great shows with this new music, including a successful run of shows in Berlin back in August (and we are returning in March to promote the new album).”

More recently (just this Friday), Kait Dunton went into detail about what fans from both sides can expect in the new, 2015 album, trioKAIT.

trioKAIT is a new album by a new group of yours. It’s really different from the classical-jazz of your 2012 album, Mountain Suite. What precipitated this new direction? Actually, it isn’t so much a new direction, as a return to the original concept of my first album, Real & Imagined, from 2008. It was there that I first experimented with a style of writing for trio that featured a lot of fun compositional twists and turns and always framed the improvisation in a particular setting: improvisation always came as a result of the composition, instead of the piece serving only as a vehicle for improvisation. My Mountain Suite album from 2012 was an exploration of a different sort of compositional language than the previous album, and was influenced heavily by my studies with composer Vince Mendoza and also with the classical composition faculty at USC. This was also a very different album, because it used a quintet for many of the tracks. This new album is a return to my original concept — and a concept that much more clearly reflects my personal musical style — but with an important change: the name. Performing as trioKait is meant to highlight the importance of the trio, and how the ideal conduit for this music is the trio. It is not music that happens to be played by a trio, but music that is meant for trio.

trioKAIT’s new group includes phenomenal R&B-popping bass by Cooper Appelt and a fine mix of both R&B and jazz by drummer Jake Reed. How does this new group feel to you as a bandleader? This group feels great! as I hope is evident in the sound [smiles]. The key is that we have a ton of fun making music together and instill a lot of personality into these compositions. I love that Jake and Cooper both know to feel free to try out new ideas over the music, and aren’t bound by the notes on the page. Cooper and I first played a gig together in 2005 when we were attending UNT. Jake and I have been playing together since 2009. Having spent so many musical years together, it really allows for a deep mutual musical understanding to develop.

Describe your upcoming album — do you have a title, or is it Prelude? “Prelude” will be the first track. The album will simply be called trioKait! The idea with this album is to bring a fresh perspective to the classic jazz piano trio, exploring modern genres such as fusion, R&B, and EDM through an acoustic lens. I love music that uses electronic elements, but I also love deeply the acoustic piano. I feel that I am better able to emote on an acoustic instrument, and yet it is often electronic-based music that inspires me! Thus, throwing in Cooper’s electric bass in the mix was the perfect solution and gives the trio a really tight, funky sound. Jake and Cooper create such an awesome pocket together.

What inspired the original tracks on the trioKAIT album? They are all original tracks, and they were inspired by many different things! Not one thing in particular. My compositional style is one that is infused with compositional intricacies with room for improvisation, but I also write in a style that is meant to remain accessible to a diverse audience — in this way, I can reach both the casual listener and the jazz aficionado.

It’s as if you turned down the classical volume slightly to make room for a more adult contemporary jazz sound. How do you like the result? I am very happy with this new direction, and as described before, it really is more of a return to the “real me,” musically speaking. And with the new focus on the trio, I am confident there will be many more trioKait albums to come.

What’s in the books as far as CD release parties next year, March right? You’ve already previewed the album somewhat in Berlin this past August. No official U.S. release date yet, though we will be presenting the music at jazz club Schlot in Berlin on March 19-21.

Do you know yet when the official release date is? What else do you need to get this fabulous new album out? I am working on putting together a great team for this album, so that the right people are behind this music and together we can build a lot of great momentum. I would love to put together a tour so that we can release the album in a few markets in the U.S. and later overseas.