When: Fri., Aug. 5, 8:30 p.m. 2016
This agile, imaginative New York trio works within jazz tradition while also tearing it apart, swinging ferociously on one tune and then grinding away like a hard-rock band on the next. The trio, which dropped its impressive debut, Steampunk Serenade (Foxhaven), in 2011, pushes its dualities harder on the forthcoming and aptly titled Swivel. It’s the group’s first recording with saxophonist Jeff Lederer since he replaced founding reedist Erik Lawrence in 2013, and his commitment to playing inside out pairs nicely with the outward-bound excursions launched by bassist Rene Hart. Honey Ear operates like a collective, with a steady push-pull between disparate approaches and a commitment to woodshedding that pays dividends in a richly unified sound. On the album opener, “Arby,” Hart plays fuzzed-out patterns on his pedal-enhanced upright bass complemented by backbeats launched by Allison Miller, a drummer who moves easily between jazz and rock—she also backs Ani DeFranco and Brandi Carlile—and ranks among NYC’s most versatile percussionists. On the ballad “Silent Stairs” Hart opts for a more conventional acoustic tone, but he colors in the sound field with drifting, unobtrusive electronic textures. A take on Monk’s “Evidence” skips through numerous rhythmic feels, from hurtling to hiccuping, and Lederer’s soprano saxophone gamely adapts to every sudden shift. Regardless of where the group lands on its unique spectrum, there’s always an infectious energy, melodic joy, and sense of fun.