Honey Ear Trio
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Honey Ear Trio

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Alternative


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""They play with a rock group’s imme­di­ate sonic and phys­i­cal appeal, and do much more.""

To my ears, Ethan Iverson’s group has not totally fol­lowed through on what they promised with their big label debut, These Are The Vis­tas (now almost ten years old). They proved that a group could play excep­tional mod­ern jazz with the stance and imme­di­ate excite­ment of a rock band, and have been doing that same thing, with vary­ing qual­ity, ever since. That idea is a begin­ning, not an end, and the Honey Ear Trio has picked it up and run with it.

The do play with a rock group’s imme­di­ate sonic and phys­i­cal appeal, and do much more. While steam­punk in music is pretty hard to iden­tify, much less describe, this band gets close to it. The music reaches back into pre-jazz New Orleans marches and extends into Minute Men ter­ri­tory, and fre­quently casts the shadow of a clas­sic power trio, with drum­mer Alli­son Miller the guid­ing force, bassist Rene Hart adding some scream­ing leads, and Erik Lawrence the front man on sax­o­phones. These cats can really play, the musi­cian­ship is excep­tional. Although they do only one stan­dard, a rich “Over The Rain­bow,” the music is full of his­tory; with touches of Monk, moments that remind me of Steve Lacy’s great trio disc The Win­dow, and always a per­sis­tent and most wel­come fla­vor of the mul­ti­jaz­z­verse bequeathed by the part­ner­ship of David Mur­ray and Butch Mor­ris: a pow­er­ful sound that sits at the apex of the pyra­mid of his­tory, and witty, pithy tune­ful­ness, full of sur­prise and satisfaction.

There’s a great store­house of musi­cal mate­r­ial that the group accesses and stitches together, so the disc is full of both vari­ety and focus. The thir­teen gen­er­ous tracks sound very dif­fer­ent from each other and all of a whole. That this is a coop­er­a­tive group with such a dis­tinc­tive sound is even more impres­sive. The musi­cians are all new to me, and I will express my shame in that igno­rance because their play­ing and think­ing are so damn good. - The Big City Blog

"Review - Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade (2011)"

Building on an established legacy, Honey Ear Trio updates the time honored acoustic instrumentation of the classic saxophone trio with a subtle use of electronics on their debut Steampunk Serenade. Saxophonist Erik Lawrence, bassist Rene Hart and drummer Allison Miller draw upon their diverse experiences in an array of popular music forms (rock, soul, folk) to inform an accessible yet adventurous series of modern jazz variations.
Challenging the conventions of structure and form, they treat time signatures, tempos and rhythmic accents with the same easygoing flair as melody, harmony and texture. The trio's close-knit interplay is intensified by a longstanding rapport gleaned as members of one another's projects; each artist's personal history influences the date's wide-ranging aesthetic to varying degrees, with Lawrence and Hart splitting writing duties for most of the session's original tunes.
Expanding the trio's palette with an arsenal of horns, Lawrence employs a variety of saxophones, from soprano to baritone. His role as longstanding member of Levon Helm's band can be heard in the bluesy outpourings of "Matter Of Time" while his pivotal sideman gigs with Sonny Sharrock are readily apparent in the Ayler-esque squalls he elicits on "Olney 60/30," Miller's sole compositional contribution to the datea thunderous Sabbath-inflected rocker underscored by Hart's droning, distorted bass lines.
Offering far more than just straight ahead accompaniment, Hart's occasional augmentation of his upright bass with loops and delays adds atmosphere to tunes like "Window Seat Nostalgia." In more conventional settings his traditional chops come into play, such as the swinging patterns that fuel Lisa Parrott's Monkish "Six Nettes," whereas his more pop-oriented experiences suffuse the waltz-time melody of the title track with bittersweet harmony.
A rising presence on the scene, Miller boasts an assortment of professional relationships, ranging from pop superstars like Ani DiFranco and Natalie Merchant to avant-garde jazz legends like Marty Ehrlich and Myra Melford. A versatile performer with an original approach for every situation, her crisp, quicksilver volleys and spry rhythm changes on "Luminesque" reveals her impeccable timing and dramatic physicality. The nuanced call-and-response she shares with Lawrence on the visceral "Beautiful Nightmare" calls upon a slightly different skill setthat of a keen listener and fearless explorer.
Ranging from a surreal reading of "Over The Rainbow," complete with backwards looped melody lines, to the subtly amplified ardor of "High Water," Honey Ear Trio expertly details the various avenues available to a modern electro-acoustic saxophone trio. A tasteful and dynamic program executed by a group of seasoned performers, Steampunk Serenade perfectly exemplifies the "past meets future" ethos espoused by its title.

Track Listing: Matter Of Time; Olney 60/30; Steampunk Serenade; Whistle Stop; High Water; Six Nettes; Over The Rainbow; Luminesque; Beautiful Nightmare; Weight Of Action; Eyjafjallajokull (Icelandic Volcano Hymn); Collide-O-Scope; Window Seat Nostalgia.

Published: March 15, 2011
- All About Jazz

""Honey Ear Trio breaks new ground for the sax-based trio format and move bravely forward. This is this an important, inspiring record.""

“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.”

- Honey Ear Trio's latest a must for jazz lovers -

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.
- Daily Freeman

"Erik Lawrence: Play What You Feel - Saxophonist talks about the Honey Ear Trio, Levon Helm and the legacy of his father Arnie Lawrence"

As the son of noted jazz saxophonist Arnie Lawrence, you might think that Erik Lawrence was raised with a mouthpiece in place of a pacifier, but the saxophonist and co-leader of the Honey Ear Trio says that his father waited at least a few years before indoctrinating him and his siblings into the world of music and jazz. “There were four kids in our family,” explains Lawrence, “and when each one of us turned 5, he had this little curved soprano saxophone and he’d teach us how to play the saxophone, like other kids would be taught how to play ball or ride a bike. I just stuck with it.” Lawrence’s sister, Marya, is a working jazz singer living in New York City, and his two other siblings also play music, though not professionally.

The saxophonist indeed stuck with it. As one-third of the cooperative Honey Ear Trio, along with bassist Rene Hart and drummer Allison Miller, Lawrence is attempting to reinvent the saxophone trio format while holding down a chair in the horn section of drummer Levon Helm’s band. Lawrence has been playing with Helm for several years—in the studio, on the road and at home in Helm’s unique combination of house concert and R&B revue at his barn in Woodstock, N.Y. It’s a balancing act that the 49-year-old saxophonist takes on with a passion nurtured by a supportive musical family.

His Father’s Son

Lawrence says that despite that early introduction and his father’s reputation as a jazz educator, much of his musical learning was on his own. “My dad was a real natural musician,” says Lawrence. “When he taught me how to play, he put the horn in my mouth and he taught me how to blow the notes and what the notes were. And then he said, ‘Go play what you feel.’ I’ve always done that. I just assumed that’s what you did. Over the course of time, I did learn how to play the right notes, if there are such things.”

Nonetheless, there were some lessons to be learned from a father immersed in the jazz scene. “The greatest learning I [received] from him was the influence. I was always around the music. I have pictures of me sitting on Clark Terry’s lap when I was 8 years old. My dad does have a reputation of being a great teacher, but I think my learning was different because I was the only one in my family who wasn’t natural at picking up an instrument. It didn’t come that easily to me. I think that was frustrating to him. It made me all the more determined, especially because my brother, who was a couple of years younger than me, was so talented. I didn’t want him to be better than me. I was aware of what I was supposed to hear – the bassline, the chords, the time and the melody – and I just set about to learning how to do it. I would say that I was self-taught and that I was a perfect example of a student of my father’s. I think he was frustrated that things didn’t come naturally to me that he didn’t really know how to teach me. But I got there through determination. I don’t think I would be a musician otherwise if I didn’t have to work hard at it.”

Talented offspring aside, perhaps Arnie Lawrence’s greatest legacy in modern jazz is the steady stream of gifted jazz players from Israel. Back in 1997, the senior Lawrence started the International Center for Creative Music in Jerusalem. He was dedicated to not only bringing jazz to Israel, but also to bringing Israeli jazz musicians to the U.S. scene. Although Lawrence died in 2005, his son is often reminded of the impact of his father’s work as a veritable pied piper of jazz in the Middle East. “Israel has always turned out really fine musicians – both classical and jazz and folk. They’re great technicians and theorists. What he brought it was that he started a school teaching improvised music. He just taught people to improvise and on a very high level. I would say that most of the great Israeli-born jazz musicians came out of that tradition. I don’t think a month goes by where I don’t hear from somebody on Facebook or at a club, where they give me a hug because I’m family. It used to be [older] guys in the jazz clubs greeting me and hugging me because of my dad, now it’s Israeli kids.”

Honey Ear Trio

For his part, Lawrence is most excited about the Honey Ear Trio, whose debut album Steampunk Serenade was released last week on the Foxhaven label. The members of the group have been playing in various configurations for the last five to six years. “Basically, every time we had a situation to play together, we would. We have a natural and wonderful synergy and I think it’s based on a really interesting chemistry where we trade off on the traditional roles with time, chords and melody. There’s a certain trust there. There’s one tune where the bass player [Rene Hart] plays the melody and there are certain tunes where we’re very liquid with the rhythm feel.”

The legacy of the trio format of saxophone, bass and drums, sans a chordal instrument, is a powerful and heavy one that Lawrence is acutely aware of. “I’ve been playing in the trio format ever since I heard Sonny Rollins’ Live at the Village Vanguard and every other sax trio recording. I love the freedom of it. But in some ways it’s more challenging and more structured than playing with a chordal player or another horn player, because you have to be defined and certain about where you’re going and how you’re going to complete your thoughts or how you’re going to tie them together. This album is really interesting because we’ve introduced electronics and sampling, and that becomes another player in the band. “

Although he sees the Honey Ear Trio as more than a saxophone trio, Lawrence is true connoisseur of that sub-genre. “There is a Dewey Redman album, Tarik, with Ed Blackwell and Malachi Favors that I love. And the Joe Henderson ones are favorites of mine. Sonny influenced me that way. I’m not primarily a tenor player, though on this record I played mostly tenor. But I also play alto, soprano and baritone, and I can’t say which I play primarily. It’s interesting that the tenor has a great voice for the trio setting with an acoustic bass.”

Lawrence sees the saxophone trio as something evolving from the groundwork laid by Coltrane and Rollins. “If you go back to 1968 and compare it with today, you’re going to be demoralized because back then there were so many amazing tenor and saxophone players. Besides Coltrane and Rollins, you had Pharoah Sanders, Booker Ervin, Dewey Redman, Wayne Shorter, Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman … the list goes on and on and it doesn’t get any weaker. Everybody had a voice. Everybody had something to say. Everybody was doing their own thing. That was the lesson I learned from those guys. Trane said, ‘Hey, let’s see how far we can go.’ If there’s a lesson, it’s that.”

In the Band

Another group that came along around that same time, albeit in a different genre, also changed the face of American music. The Band, with Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm, blended all sorts of roots music styles into a distinctive mix that could be called Americana before there was such a thing. The group, perhaps best known for its relationship with Bob Dylan and its FM radio hits “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” broke up in 1976, as documented in Martin Scorcese’s iconic concert film The Last Waltz. Drummer Helm has been keeping that group’s music in the public eye with his recent albums and nearly constant live performances. Lawrence has been playing in the horn section of Helm’s band for several years. Besides playing material from the Band repertoire, Helm’s group plays a cross-section of blues, R&B, country and rock, with a swinging horn section of Lawrence, Howard Johnson, Steven Bernstein, Jay Collins and Clark Gayton.

Although he has been playing with Helm for much of the last six or seven years, Lawrence says that his involvement with the drummer and his music started over a decade earlier. “I used to be neighbors with John Simon who produced The Band’s records and many other great records. He loved my playing. In 1993, when Bill Clinton was first inaugurated, they brought up Arkansas’ other favorite son, Levon Helm, to play. John was enlisted to fill in the band so he invited me. It was one of those life-changing gigs that cost me money to do.”

Interestingly, having grown up on jazz and funk, Lawrence was not particularly a big fan of The Band and its music and so he was not cowed by their stature in the rock community. “I'd met plenty of famous musicians and performers since I was a kid, so when John told me where to meet the bus and to say hello to Garth, Rick, Richard Bell, Jim Weider, Randy Ciarlante and Butch Dener, I just treated them like folks, musician folks. I was not awestruck.”

For fans of that group, it should be no surprise that multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson immediately connected with the young jazz man. “Garth asked me what horn players I listened to and I told him Ben Webster was a huge influence. He reached into his bag and pulled out a beautifully hand-rendered transcription of ‘Cottontail’ and we were instantly friends. All of those guys were great. Levon had driven down beforehand and met the bus when we got to DC. ‘Where's Jack?’ was the first thing he said. Evidently he had met Jack DeJohnette the previous week who had agreed to come down and play, they even had a third drum kit set up on the stage, only somehow no one told Jack where to meet the bus! Dylan played, Dr. John, Steven Stills and Vassar Clements all played. The music blew my mind!”

The gig with Helm evolved from a generous offer the saxophonist made to help the drummer and his bandmates. “Most of the guys in the Band had fallen into hard times, and two of them [Richard Manuel and Rick Danko] aren’t with us anymore. Garth had lost his house. I had moved to Vermont and I called their manager and said, ‘I know Levon is in trouble and lost his voice to throat cancer. If I’m free, I will come and play for him for nothing.’ I just wanted him to know that his friends were there for him. A few years after that, they started doing those ‘Rambles,’ and they called me for that. I was probably the first horn player in the regular band. Now it’s five horn players.”

When I ask Lawrence what it’s like for a jazz guy to play those iconic rock tunes, he reiterates that the Band weren’t part of his musical DNA. “I grew up listening to jazz. I didn’t listen to Hendrix until I was 25. Then when I was 28 I was playing with Buddy Miles. I also listened a lot to funk and blues. I am sure I heard the Band, but I didn’t have the typical kid growing up and listening to rock and roll experience. But once I got it, I really appreciated it. There’s something that’s organic about the way that he makes his music feel that permeates everybody.

"My first trip to Europe was with Sonny Sharrock a few years before he died. He was doing this crazy doo-wop thing, where he still played the way he did … before that he was with a street corner group with his brother and friends. So he hired those guys and me as a saxophone player to cross the line between modern avant-garde jazz and the old guys. We did this concert and when we looked at the side of the stage, all these super hip progressive free-jazz players were line dancing. And I realized that there’s something organically rooted in everything that everybody plays. You listen to Ornette and you hear the blues and it’s the same blues that Levon adopted, because he grew up seven miles from the King Biscuit Flour show.”

Lessons Learned

Watching Lawrence perform in the horn section of Helm’s band, it’s clear that he’s having a good time with the arrangements and music. “The thing that keeps everyone in Levon’s band is that, I’m not comparing them as far as greatness, but it reminds me of the Ellington band where everybody in that band is a virtuoso and don’t really get to play exactly like themselves. But they subsume themselves to the music and they’re perfectly happy doing it.”

He also gets to play tunes that the audience is excited to hear, such that they start singing the opening verse without so much as a cue. “I can’t help feeling that I’ve learned something about the rhythm and I’ve tried to bring that into my own music. I still get chills every time I play ‘Ophelia.’ I have to admit that it’s a thrill to stand in front of anywhere from 200 to 60,000 people and play music, when you’re used to playing in jazz clubs most often for far fewer.”

And it’s not just the numbers. Lawrence also loves the way that Helm’s audience is there for the performer, in part because they grew up with his music and in part because they know of his struggle with throat cancer. “The musicians and the audience are fully engaged. You don’t need to do a lot of drugs like you do at some rock shows from bands of that era. Levon has always said that he wanted to do music for everybody, for little kids and for old people. Not a psychedelic experience.”

Lawrence says that even though the music he plays with Helm is entirely different from what the jazz he plays with the Honey Ear Trio, his approach is unchanged. “The thing that’s the same is that my intention in music is to tell stories. I feel like that’s something I learned from my father, because he had a wild improvisational thing but then he played with Doc Severinsen. And if you listen to it, he sounds the same. I always thought that would be an amazing thing – to craft your style so that you could do that. That is true of my playing and same with the other guys in the [Helm] horn section. I can hear one note and I know it’s them. “

There’s plenty to learn from working with a drummer like Helm, Lawrence acknowledges. “I’ve been really lucky because I’ve played with a lot of great drummers, including Chico Hamilton, Buddy Miles and Levon. Each one of them had an incredible beat and an incredible way of tending to the feel of the music and playing to the song, more so than just playing a drum pattern. And someone like Allison carries on that tradition, except that we could go anywhere with Allison. The time is never lost and the feel is never lost.”

Playing Their Hearts Out

Lawrence is looking ahead with material he’s composed for both projects. “I’ve been writing songs and hopefully we’ll record another record with Levon. These songs have been strongly influenced by Levon, but I don’t know whether he’ll use them or I’ll figure out a way to organically incorporate them into a creative project of my own. I’ve also been writing songs that to me sound classic and that I love to play. I have a working quartet and we play together a lot. I’d like to record them. That would be more of a straight-ahead jazz thing with Rene Hart, Ben Perowsky and Rob Reich.

The Honey Ear Trio has been performing shows connected to the release of the album, and Lawrence notices the difference when the group is gigging. “It was amazing to do six gigs in 10 days. I can’t tell you how infrequently that sort of thing happens. Back in the days when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, they played for three or six months at one club and they sounded like it. And now we’re very skilled, but we cannot pretend that we sound like we’ve been playing together for the last three months. I was pining that for six months it would be 1954 again.

“One of the gifts I’ve gotten from playing with Levon is to bring this beautiful music that everybody’s dying to hear to all these different places and all these people are so excited to hear it. It’s one of the joys of traveling as a musician is bringing your gifts to some place that you always wanted to be – to have them appreciate the music and to have some sort of exchange with the people based on the fact that you really have something to offer. You’re not just some tourist. Hopefully we’ll get to do more of that with the Honey Ear Trio. We’re artists and we really love to play for people. “

Here’s a video of a performance by Honey Ear Trio of “Eyjafjallajokull (Volcano Song) 1.”

Lawrence is aware that his work with Honey Ear is not going to get the same reaction that Levon Helm and his band get when they perform a song like “The Weight” with a famous rock star guesting on vocals. “What a musical performance is supposed to do is make you feel something. If somebody says that that’s not jazz or I don’t know what it is, but I like it, or I think I like that, at least they’re engaged. Jazz is the highest denominator art form. We’re not waiting for people to be ready to hear this stuff. We’re just presuming that some people are ready to receive it, whether they intellectually know it or not. The response has been great so far. You don’t have to pass a test to listen to it. Here’s the basic thing. We know what we’re doing. You give us a chance and we’re going to play our hearts out for you. And that’s what we do.” - JazzTimes

"“This cooperative trio plays like a dream...I can’t imagine a debut record sounding more assured than this.""

Honey Ear Trio's recent debut, "Steampunk Serenade" may very well wind up becoming one of the hottest jazz albums to be released this year so far, and if it doesn't..well..it honestly should. That probably comes off as a bit of a stretch considering there's not only a handful or more of really great jazz albums that have already been released with more on the way, but there's always a couple of albums that manage to permeate the deepest trenches of the brain and engulf the senses in electrifying pulses and bursts of luminous colors and textures. This is one of those albums..(at least for me it is.)

The trio consists of Erik Lawrence, Allison Miller and Rene Hart all of whom have previously played on one anothers musical projects over the years and have forged both mutual respect and friendships in the process. Erik Lawrence has played as sideman for such greats as Sonny Sharrock, Bob Dylan, Buddy Miles and currently holding membership in Levon Helm's band. Allison Miller has worked with artists such as Ani DiFranco, Natalie Merchant and Marty Ehrlichbut. Though I haven't heard any of her contributions prior to this album, I can easily claim she's become one of my favorite drummers as of late. Rounding out the group is bassist Rene Hart who not only contributes dense and occasional ominous basslines to anchor the compositions but also adds touches of electronics and loop effects. The diverse stylistic influences (ranging from rock to folk to name a couple) manage to flesh out the bodies of the compositions while the core of the material is rooted firmly in jazz. That's not to say it's traditional acoustic jazz as played out by a traditional trio, if anything the often loose and joyous playing challenges the parameters without straying away from the essence and the more hushed moments reflect the more traditional approaches with dignity and grace.

Moments like the opener "Matter Of Time" reflect the trio's understated beauty and ability to tone down and float along almost effortlessly. Lawerence's sax is both understated and mournful, Hart adds quietly plucked backings via upright bass to give a warm feeling to the cut and Miller's percussion raises above a whisper at times but never beyond that and the trio's take on "Over The Rainbow" is both haunting and gripping. Hart comes through on this one not only with his understated bass but also in the looped effects he augments the backdrop with. What sounds like a guitar played in reverse plays the familiar verse of the song while Lawrence lays out a beautify buoyant sax piece.

Balancing the more reflective numbers, the trio lay out Lisa Parrott's "Six Nettes" with gleeful conviction, the rubbery bass slinking along snake-like with a confident strut while Miller's break neck precision carrying the song forward in its almost erratic time changes into a manic pace only to bring it back down to its strut again. "Luminesque" showcases Hart's finger work at its best, his rubbery plucking adding thick tones in the background while Miller's drumming stutters, rolls and chugs along with solid precision. Saving the best for last though, "Olney 60/30" is not only a personal favorite but honestly one of the most explosive jams laid out here. Diving head on into free-jazz territory, Lawrence contorts his sax into something well beyond a musical instrument. Sharp notes burst into vibrant colors and leave their stain throughout the composition, bursting with notes that screech and wail with nearly unchecked glee and Hart not only lays down an incredibly thick and wobbly bassline to attempt to anchor the combusting piece, he's also injected bits of loops off in the distance that at times almost sound like a siren or something similar off in the distance. Over all though the piece plays out as a sort of call and response duel between Lawrence and Miller. Balancing out his sharply laid out notes, Miller cuts loose on her kit as if using every tool within reach to keep pace and even take the lead. What should be drum rolls more or less resemble tremors from beneath the surface and snare rolls take on the impression of a machine gun. The trio does manage to colease part way through the track though with Hart and Miller laying out a solid foundation for Lawrence to cut loose on and it winds up almost feeling hypnotic from how deep the groove cuts.

By balancing out the more erratic qualities with the more restrained approaches, the trio essentially captures the best of both worlds in terms of jazz and even blend touches of outside influences into the textures. And going back to my stretch..(regardless how far off I may be) I honestly feel this is essential listening for anyone even remotely interested in expanding their own parameters. Another special thanks to Matt Merewitz at Fully Altered Media. I happened to catch him dropping this groups name via Twitter one night and wrote it down and hunted them down, glad I did.
- – Hank Shteamer, The Dark Forces Swing

""Remarkable chemistry in this extremely elastic acoustic trio ...startling debut" - Bill Milkowski"

Saxophonist Erik Lawrence, a member of Steven Bernsteins Millennial Territory Orchestra and a longtime horn section player in Levon Helms 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 Harts 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 Lawrences 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 Millers 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 Lawrences and Harts 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 Harts 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.
- JazzTimes

""Saxophone trios are all the rage these days, which means the Honey Ear Trio have to subvert the template: Hart uses electronics to manipulate, loop, and otherwise mess around""

Drummer Alison Miller grew up in the D.C. area, graduating from Sherwood High School in Olney before becoming an extremely prolific and diverse player in New York. Just about the only thing Miller doesn't do, in fact, is play it safe. Case in point, her new project The Honey Ear Trio, in which she collaborates with saxophonist Erik Lawrence and bassist Rene Hart. Saxophone trios are all the rage these days, which means the Honey Ear Trio have to subvert the template: Hart uses electronics to manipulate, loop, and otherwise mess around with the sounds he makes on his bass; it's sort of like a sax trio with a bionic appendage. Not that they'd be a terribly conventional band anyway; the forms of the tunes they create, along with their approach to performing on their individual instruments, are as warped and oblong as a penny smashed on the railroad tracks. But no trainwrecks to be had here. - Washington City Paper

"Listings Pick: Honey Ear Trio"

One of the year's most impressive jazz debuts comes courtesy of Honey Ear Trio (saxist Erik Lawrence, bassist Rene Hart and drummer Allison Miller). Steampunk Serenade is an eclectic yet cohesive catalog of various approaches to the 21st-century saxophone trio: wistful, groovy, choppy, hard-swinging and much more. - TimeOut New York

"Critics Pick: The sure-footed new debut by the Honey Ear Trio, an adventurous but grounded collective"

Critics Pick: Honey Ear Trio - (Thursday) “Steampunk Serenade” (Foxhaven) is the sure-footed new debut by the Honey Ear Trio, an adventurous but grounded collective with Erik Lawrence on saxophones, Rene Hart on bass and electronics and Allison Miller on drums. The band has a headlining role in this album-release show, which will also feature the rock-informed band Blue Cranes, from Portland, Ore., and the deeply ambient Moodswing Orchestra, led by the drummer Ben Perowsky. At 7 p.m., Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues, Gowanus, Brooklyn , littlefieldnyc.com; $15. (Chinen) - New York Times

""Staking a claim as one of the boldest sax trios around.""

*** Critics' Pick ***
"This new collective of old friends saxophonist Erik Lawrence, bassist Rene Hart, and drummer Allison Miller just released their sharp, irresistibly funky debut, Steampunk Serenade, and are staking a claim as one of the boldest sax trios around." - New York Magazine

"Critics Pick"

Tender balladry and dubby electrojazz are both second nature to Honey Ear Trio, an impressive new outfit featuring saxist Erik Lawrence, bassist Rene Hart and drummer Allison Miller. - Time Out New York


As a trio:
Steampunk Serenade - 2011

As a quartet (with Steven Bernstein):
Erik Lawrence and Hipmotism - Hipmotism

As Sidemen, limited discography:
Levon Helm - Electric Dirt - 2010
Sing You Sinners, Erin Mckeown
James Hunter - The Cnet Sessions 2007
Ani DiFranco - Live at Babeville
Chico Hamilton - Foreststorn (2001)
Chico Hamilton - Thoughts Of... (2002)
Bilal - First Born
Todd Sickafoose -Tiny Resistors
Levon Helm All Stars - Midnight Ramble Vol 2
Merge - Merge
Natalie Merchant - House Carpenter's Daughter
Rick Dellaratta - Take it Or Leave it
Mark Ronson - Air Remixes
James Hunter - CBC, Live in Edmunton
Steven Bernstein - MTO Vol. I and II



"This is this an important, inspiring record..."
- The Daily Freeman

Erik Lawrence - Saxophone
Rene Hart - Bass and Electronics/Looping
Allison Miller - Drums, Percussion

"A sweet ride."
– Elmore Magazine

Honey Ear Trio is the new incarnation of long time musical cohorts Erik Lawrence, Rene Hart and Allison Miller. Together, these three passionate musicians approach music with a sense of playfulness. Honey Ear Trio takes a fresh look at the classic saxophone trio, incorporating jazz, folk, rock and electronics / looping with Avant-Garde and dark pop sensibilities.

Erik, Rene and Allison have performed as a core group in larger ensembles with Steven Bernstein, David Amram, John Medeski and the poet Robert Pinsky. They also draw upon their wide ranging experience as sidemen and featured artists with Sonny Sharrock, Levon Helm, Marty Ehrlich, Don Braden, James Hunter, Allen Toussaint, Ani DiFranco, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Martin Medeski and Wood, Bilal, Bob Dylan, Brandi Carlile, Branford Marsalis, Myra Melford, Trey Anastasio and Anat Fort. The debut Honey Ear Trio recording, Steampunk Serenade, was released March of 2011.

Erik Lawrence - Saxophones, Flute
In addition to leading his own groups Erik Lawrence has been a sideman with greats from Allen Toussaint to Sonny Sharrock. Erik is currently a member of Levon Helm's band, with whom he was recently featured on the Grammy winning album Electric Dirt. He has performed Solo improvised saxophone at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York. Erik has been featured at music festivals around the world and has performed with Chico Hamilton, Medeski Martin & Wood, Aaron Neville, Bob Dylan, Buddy Miles, David Bromberg, Bruce Hornsby and many, many others. Erik's teaching includes Williams College, Dartmouth College and Montclair State University. He has been playing the saxophone since he was 5 years old.

Rene Hart - Bass, Electronics/Looping
Rene Hart is a unique musician who draws from a wide range of influences and has toured the world extensively, performing at major Jazz and multi-genre music festivals, including the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival. Rene's television appearances include The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O’Brian. He has appeared in several films and his playing can also be heard on numerous soundtracks. Rene has recorded and performed with artists from Julian Priester, Don Braden and Branford Marsalis to James Hunter, Anat Fort and Bilal.

Allison Miller - Drums, Percussion
NYC-based Allison Miller defies all boundaries bringing her individual sound to diverse types of music while preserving their stylistic authenticity. Allison goes from playing with legendary songwriting vocalists Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Merchant, to touring with avant-garde saxophonist Marty Ehrlich and legendary organist Doctor Lonnie Smith. She approaches each of these musical situations with her own stylistic identity and a creative, fresh and energetic approach. Allison was chosen as “Rising Star Drummer” in Downbeat’s 53rd Annual Critics Poll.


"Their remarkable chemistry in this extremely elastic acoustic trio setting is further enhanced by Hart’s creative use of electronics… startling debut"
- Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes

"One of the year's most impressive jazz debuts… an eclectic yet cohesive catalog of various approaches to the 21st-century saxophone trio: wistful, groovy, choppy, hard-swinging and much more."
– Time Out New York

“Steampunk Serenade is the sure-footed new debut by the Honey Ear Trio… an adventurous but grounded collective.”
- Nate Chinen, The New York Times

“This cooperative trio plays like a dream… I can’t imagine a debut record sounding more assured than this… they groove when they want, fray at the seams when they want, always exuding a loose, gracious
– Hank Shteamer, The Dark Forces Swing

"Honey Ear Trio breaks new ground for the sax-based trio format and moves bravely forward… This is this an important, inspiring record… Their deep, knowing interaction and uncanny chemistry is simply brilliant. It’s sonically stellar as well. This is the way modern jazz should sound.”
- The Daily Freeman