The sixth album from pianist Kait Dunton speaks to mentorship, a merging of spheres, and the artistic alignment that develops through those actions. Paying tribute to trumpeter John D’earth, the educator who helped alter her course by encouraging a path into music back when she was a Spanish major at the University of Virginia, Dunton designs a world where individuals and interests overlap. The Dunton-D’earth connection is clearly spelled out by the trumpeter’s presence—literal and figurative—on the album. Drummer Jake Reed, Dunton’s partner in music and life, makes for the obvious choice to cover the kit. Guest saxophonist Bob Mintzer, friends with D’earth for decades and connected to Dunton and Reed since that pair studied at USC’s Thornton School of Music, brings his inimitable sound and soulfulness to bear on a few tracks. And bassist Dane Alderson, Mintzer’s bandmate in the Yellowjackets, is tied to D’earth through shared musical experiences on stages in Virginia, where they both live. Taken together, Dunton’s collaborators speak to convergence while covering her path and career arc from start to present.
Balancing reflective thought and groove-driven action, Dunton puts together varied settings to showcase her bandmates and highlight her own personality and preferences. Introspection carries the day in a number of places, most notably on “Dear John,” in the cool waters of D’earth’s “River on the Rocks,” and through the opening and closing movements of the three-part “Thread Suite.” But the album isn’t purely ruminative. Dunton and company also like to throw down, and there’s a palpable energy on the pianist’s “Planet D’earth” and “Mister Zen,” as well as the trumpeter’s playful “Sarah’s Bracelet.” Equally adept at creating sophisticated soul-searching works and mining a few chords and a beat for all they’re worth, Dunton continues to inspire on this trip around Planet D’earth.