As it is written, in the end we will all stand naked before our God. Be it Yahweh, Gitchi Manitou, Sam Walton or, in drummer Scott Neumann's case, Elvin Jones, there is no time better than right now to make preparations.
His bags get packed to meet the his maker on Blessed. The denuded state can be referred to, in musical terms, as his stripped-down saxophone/bass/drums trio with saxophonist Michael Blake (who also plays melodica) and bassist Mark Helias. All the requirements are met for a post-bop ceremony. Neumann, who has played with everyone from Woody Herman's big band to Jazz Mandolin Project and Brother Jack McDuff, penned eight of the set's ten tracks. His loose, open style favors hip swing and catchy melodies; and it doesn't hurt that he can unbutton each tune with the assurance of Helias' rock-solid timekeeping.
Blake's horns fit nicely into Neu3 Trio's open platform. On "Ebb And Flow," the Ed Blackwell/Old And New Dreams dedication piece, maintains that New Orleans/post-Ornette Coleman Quartet sound that isat-once unconfined but also built upon its intrinsic swing. Blake, a master of outside playing, always ties loose ends up into coherent statements. He plays with bits of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's sound on Roswell Rudd's "Keep You Heart Right," vocalizing through his tenor and spilling bluesy notes. He switches to soprano for a couple songs: "Ama Dablam," which opens with a modest drum solo before soaring with an Eastern edge; and "Hymn For boB," featuring Helias as cantor, commanding the piece by casting chest reverberations over the brush work of Neumann and Blake's high notes.
Neumann's pieces range from the tarantella-inspired "Garbanzo," with Blake playing melodica, the Sonny Rollins-inspired bebop of "Blessed" and the funky/folk bluegrass muster, "The Syracusian," that shuffles Americana from the bayou to the Northeast Appalachian Mountains. With Blessed, Neumann's trio makes a worthy pilgrimage to the jazz holy land.