How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Step Away spices up the piano trio format with shifting time signatures, quirky melodies, some solid rock beats, bits of funk grooves, and brooding interludes juxtaposed with bright rhythms. And you'll hear the occasional Balkan tinge in there, too, along with some subtle "mysterious" and "unearthly sounds," by a pianist who favors the darker tones a good deal of the time, even when the bass and drums have a bounce in their step.
Pianist Willie Myette wrote all the songs here, creating a sound that feels very spontaneous. A student of Fred Hersch, his approach is similar to his teacher's stylethoughtful, sometimes foreboding ("Full Circle"), with a good deal of mixed meter grooves laid down. There is also here a sense of adventure. While Step Away could be called mainstream, the melodies are never predictableyou don't come away from the experience whistling them, and band energies and moods tend to ebb and flow within a single tune.
A consistently interesting set of sounds, the song "Wagons of the Night," inspired by Myette's visit to the catacombs in Paris, is a particular highlight, a somber mood on piano in front of the rise and fall of the bass/drum tempo. "Zoeie" opens jauntily, a bouncing bass/drum unit behind the sharply percussive piano melody built around a repeated phrase, with a subtle wind-like sound (studio tweakings) blowing cool in the background.
The group makes spare use of studio textures, leaving the mood feeling mainstream; but they use those "mysterious sounds" so well that more of them would have been welcome here.
Step Away proves itself a successful and attention-grabbing debut for Katahdin's Edge.
Track Listing: Step Away, Enigma, Wagons of the Night, Full Circle, Zargonic Effect, Traveler in the Dark, Soulmates, Zoeie
Personnel: Willie Myette--piano; John Funkhouser--bass; Mike Connors--drums