12 O'Clock Track: "Ebb and Flow," an agile slice of postbop from drummer Scott Neumann | Bleader

12 O'Clock Track: "Ebb and Flow," an agile slice of postbop from drummer Scott Neumann

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Over the last decade and a half or so one of my favorite jazz saxophonists has been Michael Blake, the Vancouver native who first made his name as a member of one of the final lineups of John Lurie's Lounge Lizards. That's not the context where I first heard Blake, and to be honest I've enjoyed his work on his own much more. He's rooted in hard bop tradition, but over the years he's measuredly deployed interesting stylistic gambits, from the Vietnamese-tinged sounds of his album Kingdom of Champa from 1997 to his electric collaboration with a trio of young Danes (all of whom have become serious artistic forces in the years since) he worked with on his 2005 album Blake Tartare. I don't know why Blake isn't more well known, but his music remains an ongoing source of pleasure for me, and that's certainly why I quickly checked out Blessed (Origin), a new trio album billed to drummer Scott Neumann whose name meant nothing to me (although in hindsight I realized he played on Kingdom of Champa). He's a solid player and his compositions here are sturdy and attractive if otherwise unremarkable, but they have more than enough content for Blake to work his charms as a warm-toned improviser. It helps that the bass chair is held down by Mark Helias, whose muscular, woody tone gives the saxophonist plenty of space and support, but Blake rarely disappoints in any context. Helias contributed one tune and the trio tackles the wonderful Roswell Rudd compositions "Keep Your Heart Right," but today's 12 O'Clock Track is a fleet, zigzagging Neumann original called "Ebb and Flow." Check it out after the jump.

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