A magnum opus from John Hollenbeck up there with Royal Toast.
Vocalist Theo Bleckmann provides a benign serenity to the title track right at the beginning, the album bookended by ''blessings'' posited initially against the gently lapping piano-playing of Gary Versace, later with a more mystical dressing.
A who's who of well known jazz players join the drummer-composer Hollenbeck, best known for the Claudia quintet.
Conducted by JC Sanford, compositions are Hollenbeck's.
After the low profile opening 'Folkmoot' has a ritualistic uptempo minimalist bee-in-a-hive quality that completely changes the mood.
The 18-piece band never seems like a juggernaut; the more that you delve the more ''classical'' avant garde A Blessing not so much anti-swing more swing-averse becomes (I'm thinking Webern a bit on 'RAM'). For rhythmic impetus 'Weiji' provides this in abundance – oh, and a good dollop of implied anarchy too.
Hollenbeck has a panoramic sense as a composer which is one of the reasons A Blessing works so well. 'Abstinence' is very much a where-have-we-got-to track if you listen in sequence and you need patience here be warned or you might just skip this puzzler too soon; 'April in Reggae' is the most accessible and least interesting. Finally, back to where we began in terms of benediction: a very different blessing to the opening variation on this theme, Bleckmann the shaman. SG
Out in April. John Hollenbeck, photo, top: Bandcamp