Without any warning, Kait Dunton and her trioKAIT 3-person unit dropped a brand new album upon us this past October 21, a covers-only affair called Casual. It’s a collection of semi-old pop tunes and really old jazz ones, and pianist Dunton, electric bassist Cooper Appelt and drummer Jake Reed remake these songs into their own youthful image. Matter of fact, the title Casual must be tongue-in-cheek because there’s really nothing casual about how they approach these aged compositions; a lot of thought seemed to have gone into this project and even Coltrane’s fake book favorite “Giant Steps” is creatively transformed in their hands.
They succeed most of all when they make a listener both see a song in a new light and demonstrate the durability of a great melody. Like, for instance, a certain Michael Jackson deep cut.
“The Lady In My Life” was the slow-jam ballad posited at the end of Jackson’s blockbuster Thriller and had the distinction of being only one of two tracks from that album to not chart in the Top Ten. It’s also IMHO the best song on Thriller (maybe because it hadn’t been run into the ground, but I digress). Rod Temperton had written this gem, and though trioKAIT recorded this track months before Temperton’s death around the beginning of October, this works as a timely tribute to his pop songcrafting genius.
It also works for demonstrating the flair Kait Dunton has for surprising, smart arrangements. A distant, ethereal synth wash opens up the song suggesting the honeyed consistency of the original, and for a while, Dunton’s piano is playing this one “straight.” But after the first visit of chorus, she’s off to the races with her tight-groovin’ rhythm section in tow. Quick but crisply flowing lines — a trademark of hers — is followed by another loyal portrayal of the chorus and then a delightful duel of chops with guest guitarist Andrew Synowiec.
Casual is available via Amazon, iTunes and Kait Dunton’s website.
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