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The Ridge by Katahdin's Edge

Katahdin's Edge takes its name from Mount Katahdin (ka TAH din) in the state of Maine, and the foot trail that runs along its top called The Knife's Edge. It is a perfect metaphor for this jazz trio that takes you to the edge but never over. Like a perilous yet beautiful mountain path, The Ridge delivers fresh musical vistas as it progresses through unconventional song structures, mixed meters, and heavily syncopated melodies. The music is challenging but eminently listen-able.

Many listeners will find the sound of Katahdin's Edge reminiscent of Brad Mehldau's trio work. But Katahdin's Edge has its own aural signature. For example, one of the techniques used on this recording with wonderful effect is the addition of loops and samples, used sparingly to add flavor like fine spices.

The CD's opening track, "Fugimoto," announces this is not your traditional trio. Pianist Willie Myette's left hand and bassist John Funkhouser state the jaunting melody before moving into a brief interlude with Myette comping while Funkhouser continues the bass motif. The tune builds to a near-frenzy with drummer Mike Connors adding plenty of energy with his cymbal crashes and snare work. The piece ends unusually with Myette's overdubbed improvisation with a heavily processed piano sound.

The Ridge is full of these kinds of surprises. The mood shifts from ebullient to melancholy not just across the tunes but sometimes within as well. All of the compositions are by pianist Myette; he seems to favor the use of repetitive motifs which he then builds on and plays with throughout. The overall effect is far from repetitive; each tune has all manner of little back alleys and unexpected views, taking the listener on a delightfully fresh journey each time.

Myette's writing throws down some difficult navigation for Funkhouser and Connors, but these fine musicians are up to it. This trio works; they take the shifting meters and shifting melodic structures in stride. Connors is all over the drum kit , skillfully moving from high energy crashes and fills to delicate brush work. Funkhouser sounds great on the bass as well, whether he's coaxing out big fat pedal notes or ripping off a fast sixteenth-note run.

All in all, The Ridge is an excellent contribution to the world of recorded jazz music. Traditional jazz trio enthusiasts should appreciate its innovations without feeling like they've been pulled too far into progressive waters.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Katahdin's Edge
  • CD Title: The Ridge
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Incline Records
  • Tracks: Fugimoto, Glad You Called, MTA, The Path, Coming Home, Broken Leg Blues, Sydney, Alpine Zone, The Ridge
  • Musicians: Willie Myette (piano), John Funkhouser (bass), Mike Connors (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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