O’s Notes: Saxophonist, composer and producer Miles Donahue presents a fine contemporary jazz set with Just Passing Through. Bassist Joe Santerre gets in the mix on “Living Room Blues” before Donahue soothes us on song “Killing Me Softly”, the lone cover. Guest Mike Stern (g) adds fusion elements to “7-9-65” and the funky “Railroaded”. We also enjoyed the cool vibe of “Donny’s Groove” and “A Man of Few Words”.
Just Passing Thru is the latest music album by Miles Donahue. The songs feature Miles Donahue on saxophones, trumpet, and keyboards; Joe Santerre on electric bass; Larry Finn on drums; Ricardo Monzon on percussion; Alain Mallet on keyboards; with Mike Stern on guitar. The result is a versatile fusion that crosses boundaries of style and substance, from jazz to rhythm & blues to elements of rock and soul, and more. A captivating original treasury, Just Passing Thru is highly recommended. The tracks are “hear My Words”, “Living Room Blues”, “Killing Me Softly”, “Just Passing Thru”, “Donny’s Groove”, “A Man of Few Words”, “7/9/65”, “Railroaded”, and “Ireland”.
Miles Donahue’s latest album, coming on the heels of The Bug (Whaling City Sound, 2017), Just Passing Thru is large in scope and beautiful in execution. The absurdly talented player, vibrant on both tenor and soprano saxes, trumpet, and keyboard, shows just how broad his musical wingspan is. It certainly helps that he has an amazing crew behind him. Joe Santerre provides power grooves on electric bass as does Larry Finn on drums. They are joined by percussionist Ricardo Monzon, keyboard player Alain Mallet, and a handful of tracks featuring guitarist Mike Stern. With a vision that includes Crusaders’ style R&B, Weather Report fusion, and lovely, soulful turns, Donahue is masterly and versatile.
From song to song, there are wide swings of style and substance, from moments of tenderness, passages of grandeur, and fistfuls of exhilarating, technical wonder. The opening “Hear My Words” kicks off with an ingenious, shuffling melody that settles into a samba, and then finishes with a little funk. “Living Room Blues” swings with verve and passion, showcasing Santerre’s powerful bass. “A Man of a Few Words” opens with an introspective statement that morphs into alto soulfulness, buoyed by Mallet’s beautiful electric piano. “Railroaded” has a funk foundation to go along with its zesty ensemble playing. Joining that performance is none other than Mike Stern, one of the great voices in jazz guitar, and his solo here is proof of that. And then there’s the surprising “Ireland,” a nod to Donahue’s ancestral homeland that is both respectful and anthemic, in the way a rock song is anthemic. Talk about unexpected!
Throughout Donahue’s lovely Whaling City Sound recording, he never fails to challenge convention. In many, often subtle ways, he ventures out on the unexpected limb rather than the sturdy one that’s already been tried. His adventurousness is gratifying. Donahue finds a myriad of ways to reward his listeners and we are grateful for that. It may or may not be a fact that jazz musicians age with grace and class. In Miles Donahue’s case, the concept bears out. It is a joy to follow his risky explorations, as he makes his way through a labyrinth of unexpected turns. More than simply Just Passing Thru, Donahue is staying a while, long enough to leave a permanent impression on today’s jazz landscape.
Jazz Keyboardist, Composer, Author, Teacher
There is a way that most people do things. There are trends and styles; common mistakes and Murphy’s Law. However, Berklee College of Music graduate, Willie Myette has been bucking the system for most of his adult life. Shortly after graduating from Berklee in ‘96 with a degree in Film Music, Willie set out to live as a jazz performer. He started by returning home to Rhode Island, where his father had taught him piano.
Like those before him and after, he taught to make a steady income. Wanting to teach jazz and improvisation to his students, he looked for materials that mirrored his own free- formed musical upbringing. What he found was material that did not encompass the freedom and creativity that he was accustomed to. So, he wrote his own music for his young students. Giving his songs catchy titles like Jessica’s Blues and Dustin’s Da Man, JazzKids® was born with the goal of teaching young students how to improvise.
Willie has written almost a dozen books on teaching improvisation to young students. In addition, he has presented JazzKids at conferences around the U.S. and workshops in the United Kingdom. Soon, the attention at these conferences caught the attention of some very big names in the publishing industry. MelBay, a company best known for its guitar method, published Willie’s first collection of JazzKids songs. Soon, Alfred Publishing, perhaps one of the biggest names in printed educational music, signed Willie to create music for them.
Willie has not stopped there. We all know that old adage, “Those that can’t, teach.” Once again this mold has been broken in Willie’s case. While perfecting the JazzKids method in the 90’s, Willie was also busy performing and writing. In 2002 he met bassist and Berklee professor John Funkhouser. This meeting of the musical minds proved to be quite fruitful. Adding to the dynamic relationship that already existed between Willie and drummer Mike Connors, bringing Funkhouser aboard created a truly special musical group.
In 2004, combining his love of hiking and jazz, Willie formed the group Katahdin’s Edge with Connors and Funkhouser. Their 2004 release, Step Away on Myette’s own Incline Records label, garnered stellar reviews by the media. C. Michael Bailey from allaboutjazz.com wrote “This is a superb piece of avant- garde jazz that should satisfy fans from everyone from Harry Connick to Medski, Martin and Wood.”
Now was the time to hit the road. In September of ’04, the trio began their first North West tour. Willie remembers, “It was exciting to be bringing our music to the opposite end of the country. But, it was also scary not knowing how it would be received.” Well, their performance at MusicFestNW in Portland proved that this group had something to say and people were ready to listen. After launching into the funky groove of the CD title track Step Away, and displaying their “no holds barred” approach to jazz, the group was asked to double their set for the excited crowd.
After the tour, the group focused on radio play and future bookings. Katahdin’s Edge was added to the playlists of over 90 radio stations nationwide. This is an impressive feat for any independent record. With fans likening the group to the Bad Plus and E.S.T. Myette focused on creating new material for their next tour. In April, the band performed at the Triple Door in Seattle, a hot spot for some of the biggest names in jazz.
The future holds bright for Myette and Katahdin’s Edge. Their new album is being picked up by a record label and is due out January of 2006.
“Hiking a mountain is difficult,” says Willie. “You have to watch where you put your feet. Otherwise, you might have a really bad day. Music is like this too. You need to promote your art, but always remain true to your calling.”
Myette proves that he can walk that line. The road less traveled can still lead to spectacular and unexpected results.
For tour schedules or to see Myette in action teaching JazzKids, visit www.jazzkids.com or www.jazzontheedge.com.
For high resolution/300 dpi jpegs, visit www.jazzontheedge.com/media.html