Honey Ear Trio's latest a must for jazz lovers

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ARTIST: Honey Ear Trio
ALBUM: Steampunk Serenade (Foxhaven Records)

There hasnt been anything startlingly new in jazz for years (no, smooth jazz doesnt count) no shot heard around the world like Miles Davis Bitches Brew or John Coltranes A Love Supreme that just leaves you speechless.

Steampunk Serenade certainly comes close to that ideal. A gathering of likeminded musicians, the Honey Ear Trio breaks new ground for the sax-based trio format and move bravely forward.

Though Honey Ear Trio saxophonist extraordinaire Erik Lawrence is based in New York City, you could surely call Woodstock his second home, as youll find him playing with the legendary Levon Helm most Saturday nights at the Midnight Ramble. Not surprisingly, along the way Lawrence has performed with musical giants like Bob Dylan, Allan Toussaint, David Bromberg, Aaron Neville, Buddy Miles and many more.

Drummer Allison Miller is often found in un-jazz like settings as well, playing with pop stars Brandi Carlile, Natalie Merchant and Ani DiFranco. Bassist Rene Hart is an in-demand session player who has played with Branford Marsalis and James Hunter and has appeared on Conan OBriens show and The Tonight Show.

Though their careers have often gone in different diverse directions, the groups members now return to the tradition, armed with lessons learned from elsewhere, applied to the forms of old and expanded upon.

This collection starts out with Matter of Time, as a warm and inviting sax soars over crisp the sharp rhythm section, which moves along with a free, at times merely implied tempo, and huge amounts of space.

Their deep, knowing interaction and uncanny chemistry is simply brilliant. Its sonically stellar as well. This is the way modern jazz should sound like youre in the room and miles away at the same time. Lawrences way with melody and phrasing is world-class, Millers use of time in and around it is compelling and challenging. She often serves more as percussionist than drummer. Harts chops and skill is a given, but its his clever use of electronics that add so much to the mix. Intriguing, eerie sounds float around, in a way not done before.

The title track is inventively, intuitively produced; the anxious counter rhythms stir up a storm, prodding and taunting Lawrence to new heights. Over the Rainbow is an astounding reinvention of a song you would have thought didnt need one. The mysterious haunting take has to be second only to Judy Garlands original.

This is this an important, inspiring record. Its about time.

Visit www.honeyeartrio.com.

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