While spending time in Estonia on a Fullbright scholarship, composer Anthony Branker put together a long series of contemporary jazz compositions. Returning to the states, the group Ascent was put together largely around him and his work, and began releasing albums (beginning with 2006's Spirit Songs). On Blessings, the group works their way through a pleasing mix of layered jazz. There are always melodic lines playing here ? even in the quieter moments, there will be a horn starting to croon its way into a buildup. Where the music isn't slowly building (as in Sacred Song), it tends toward the highly complex, anchored more often than not by the intricate vibe posturing of Bryan Carrott (as in the opening title track). The music stays in full ensemble format throughout, letting each player shine in their respective solos, but seemingly deliberately avoiding too many flights of fancy outside of the proscripted times. While the individuals may twinkle periodically, it's the compositions that hold attention, and they're quite good compositions ? perhaps nothing entirely new to many listeners, but it's solid work. With strong compositions and stronger players, it makes for a fine outing throughout.