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Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade

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Saxophonist Erik Lawrence, a member of Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra and a longtime horn section player in Levon Helm’s band, joins bassist Rene Hart and drummer Allison Miller on this daring cooperative outing. Their remarkable chemistry in this extremely elastic acoustic trio setting is further enhanced by Hart’s creative use of electronics.

The delicate rubato opener, “Matter of Time,” could easily have been called “Matter of No Time”: Miller sets the tone with her freewheeling instincts beneath Lawrence’s robust tenor lines, while Hart plays sparsely and contrapuntally on bass. “Olney 60/30” opens with a burst of urgent free jazz, with Lawrence blowing forcefully in the high register as Miller bashes behind him. The piece settles into hard-rockish mode with double-bassist Hart kicking on a distortion pedal and emulating Hugh Hopper as Miller delivers big backbeats with muscular authority.

On the title track, bassist Hart experiments with looping technology on his upright and radical dub effects on Miller’s drums. The near-telepathic trio strikes a gentle accord on the spacious “High Water,” then collectively swaggers through the playfully Monk-like swinger “Six Nettles,” which undergoes a number of surprising tempo changes. The buoyant 5/4 number “Luminesque” showcases Lawrence’s and Hart’s skills as melodic improvisers.

The bracing sax-drums improv duet “Beautiful Nightmare” travels from second-line groove to clave-fueled jam to pure freedom. Lawrence switches to baritone sax for an improv duet with bassist Hart on “Collide-O-Scope.” The saxophonist also soars on soprano over the droning textures created by Hart’s looped bowing on the ominous soundscape “Window Seat Nostalgia.” Their highly impressionistic take on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the lone cover on this collection of inventive originals, provides the one Paul Motian Trio moment on this startling debut.

Originally Published