by Jeff Becker
The Steve Howe Trio is an English jazz trio led by YES guitarist Steve Howe. Howe formed the band in 2007 with his son Dylan Howe on drums and Ross Stanley on Hammond organ. Howe’s latest album features three co-written tunes with former band mate Bill Bruford aptly titled New Frontier. The album comes as a stunning follow up to the 2008 studio album The Haunted Melody and the live album Travelling. Reflective of the jazz-fusion persona Steve Howe the album takes the listener through a winding road of heavy hitting playing and notable new tunes. Of interest for the collector in you, the album will be released on both on CD and 180g vinyl formats (cut at Abbey Road Studios), so certainly one can cherish each morsel of the sonics.
On New Frontier, the rhythmic inventiveness of “Hiatus” has Bruford’s influences all in it. Howe and Bruford co-wrote the tune and it kicks off the album with a rich tapestry of sounds. Howe’s volume swells are as expressive as is his acoustic playing over a vamping chordal section. The tune is not long or built upon a big complex form, but instead, it allows Howe to create colors on his guitar that are indicative to his style and mastery. The sounds of Stanley are ever supportive, and Dylan sounds great as he lays down a serious groove. There are sounds and a sense of 60s nostalgia in the mood and character of “Hiatus.” A welcomed additive.
“Left to Chance” is a tour-de-force of feels and sounds from this creative trio. Starting with a melodic chordal pattern that builds upon layers, the trio leads us to a riff styled melody that is orchestrated by different colors and developed with a depth of sonic. Next, is a funky groove and a very cool guitar part from Howe. His distorted guitar builds a story on a riff that he moves around. The trio never gets frantic or crazy, but instead focuses on building each melody to create an overall musical statement. The three musicians share a chemistry and they project a musical confidence and maturity that is intense. There is a surprise jam on the riff at the end of the tune, and that is when things really get deep.
Howe was always a cornerstone sound with YES, with his own trio he explores the power of the Hammond organ paired with guitar and drums, that driving force is a catapult for Howe’s playing. Equally balanced with moments of shred and melodic styling, Howe is percolating along better than ever. In his playing you can hear a deepening of maturity that is just as articulate and intense as in his younger years, but with a relaxed mystic that makes the listen even more savory.