Ringer of the Week
- Many aspire, but few attain. That holds not only for salvation, but for putting together a tenor trio recording. Drummer Scott Neumann attempts the climb from the North Side of the Mountain, leading a band from behind with Michael Blake, who also brings his soprano sax and melodic to the studio here, and bassist Mark Helias. Maybe because Neumann pays around with so many drum tricks and styles that this collection of (mostly) originals works so well, but the music never sounds cluttered, to spacious or glibly filling an empty space.
Lots of blue-toned pieces such as the title track or "Blues for RQ" feature Blake's rich and breathy tenor,while the calypso on "Ama Dablam" features a slitheringly brilliant soprano and "Garbanzo" includes his melodic sliding along the floor to a tango. Helias' lava thick bass lays down some irresistible riffs on tunes such as "Clamba" and the whole team bops like 52nd Streeters on "Ebb and Flow." A lovely warm melancholy permeates "Hymn for Bob" and the band gets the spirits perked up with a New Orleanish "The Syracusian," rounding out an impressively surprising session. Put it next to Way Out West-it?s a Blessed Assurance!