Sometimes success is a by product of simple chemistry. The members of drummer Scott�Neumann's Neu3 Trio don't boast the largest profiles in jazz. Neither do they arrive with lofty concepts about the way the music should change. Indeed, Blessed makes its mark by betting the farm on two of jazz's bedrock elements: grace and rigor. Neumann�enlists saxophonist Michael Blake and bassist Mark Helias for this date, and the loose-limbed trio seems juiced by the possibilities of freedom while nodding to the guideposts of composition. Which means these New Yorkers grab a handful of blowing vehicles penned by the leader and squeeze them in all sorts of ways until something valuable emerges. That doesn't take long. While there's plenty of leash given to each soloist, the eloquence of their group interaction looms large. This music isn't overly preened, but the cohesion is remarkable. Everything--from the momentary eruptions to the nuanced fades--feels natural. It's remarkable when a band's teamwork is an album's defining trait.
Blake's horn shines through-out. He's a freebop kingpin and an expert on the subtleties of trio dynamics (check last year's Union Square with Ben Allison and Rudy Royston). Here, his game is all about balance. Low-register purring, pithy squalls, thoughtful long tone; he rides the mercurial grooves presented by Helias and�Neumann�with a
wealth of good ideas. A nod to Dewey Redman's buzzy blues growl starts Roswell Rudd's "Keep Your Heart Right," and as the three players nudge each other into different directions, Blake proves a slow simmer can be as impressive as a vigorous boil. Along the way, Helias makes a case for agility. His own Open Loose group works a similar territory as this band, and the pliability of his instrument becomes more and more articulate with each year.�Neumann�seems to know exactly how to tickle these guys. Whether feathering around or nudging the action forward, he makes a measured approach seem sage. Congrats to him for rounding up a crew that makes deep swing and personalized approaches carry the day.