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BRATTLEBORO — Three of the top musicians in jazz come together to perform as a “Trion” — a three charged particles unified as one — in an evening of energetic music at the Vermont Jazz Center at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18.

This chord-less jazz trio (includes no chordal instrument such as piano or guitar) features three of the leading players of their generation: Chris Potter on tenor saxophone, Linda May Han Oh on acoustic bass and band leader Johnathan Blake on drums. Reviewing their self-titled recording "Trion," Apple music states, “Blake rides a hurricane as he convenes with two giants … Each player is amply and repeatedly featured but the trio sounds like a genuine collective, not stars hunkering down in their respective corners.” The repertoire of the group ranges from original compositions and pop tunes, to Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk standards, all performed with an open-ended concept.

This group doesn’t hold back. All three are virtuosos on their instruments, they use their prowess to swing hard, think hard and communicate at a level that’s unrestrained by the confines of technique, knowledge and ability. They know when to burn and when to leave space, when to swing and when to play a ballad, when to sit in the pocket and when to go wild. After years of playing with the top musicians of the world, this trio of leaders has refined its ability to convey ideas, thoughts and emotions into instantaneous poetry using notes as a proxy for words.

The musicians' ears guide them to a universe unfettered by the demands of their instruments and unobstructed by the constraints of harmony. Their musical conversations evolve into well-informed compositions, and we, as listeners, are privileged to eavesdrop and follow each thread as it morphs from a germ of an idea into a fully developed construct. This is music for deep listening and the rewards are great.

Johnathan Blake’s website clarifies his use of the word “trion” as the band’s name by noting that Trion “is taken from a physics term that refers to three atoms combining to form a single unit, a concept that is deeply meaningful in the context of this highly attuned trio.” No matter who is soloing, the whole group is united in their accompaniment and even free to participate or interject. In Trion there exists a sense of democracy where each of the three voices carries equal weight. Blake might be the organizer, but each member is both a leader and a follower; there are no apparent ego-centric obstacles that block their creative alliance. Instead, there is a sense of freedom in the form and a mutual trust in their collective journey.

In a quote found on his website, Blake spoke to the trio’s collaborative relationship, referring to a concert they performed in January, 2018 that was released as an album in 2019 by Giant Step Arts. He said “I’m in awe of both Linda and Chris. This [concert] was really a beautiful chance for us to make some honest music together and I really enjoyed the process. We all felt very comfortable in the chord-less format. We really know how to fill up the space without getting in each other’s way, which gives each one of us the opportunity to have our shining moments.”

One can’t be certain what Blake’s means by "honesty," but after just a short time experiencing this group’s interactive music, listeners can tune into the respect that each person brings to the collaboration, the willingness to be both powerful and vulnerable, their unwavering commitment to the music, and the clear intention to be receptive. Each one of the musicians here is strong rhythmically and melodically, so a sense of confidence and power permeates the musical space. But if any uncertainty arises it is seen as an opportunity to express that honestly and to unabashedly rely on one’s bandmates.

In an online interview with Ulysses Owens Jr., Blake mentioned that one of the things he learned from the great bassist Rufus Reid was that “talent only takes you so far.” Blake is extremely talented and his youth was peppered with a perfect storm of opportunities to study and develop his skills. He was constantly challenged by excellent role models and teachers and took to heart the need to work diligently to develop his craft. Blake evolved as a sideman who was able to fulfill the objectives of leaders of a variety of styles: masters of the tradition like Kenny Barron and Russell Malone and those whose personalized, creative visions were very specific, like Tom Harrell, Maria Schneider and Oliver Lake.

The son of famed jazz violinist John Blake Jr., Johnathan studied violin, piano and drums as a youth in Philadelphia where he was privy to one of the most fertile jazz education scenes in the world. Similar to his contemporaries like Christian McBride, Joey DeFrancesco, Jaleel Shaw and Orrin Evans, Blake was welcomed to sit in at gigs with noted jazz educators and legends including Robert Landham, his own father, Shirley Scott and Mickey Roker. 

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Chris Potter is the saxophonist of the group. Down Beat called him “One of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet” while Jazz Times identified him as “a figure of international renown.” Potter’s discography includes over 30 albums as a leader and sideman appearances on over 700 recordings. 

Bassist Linda May Han Oh has been recognized as one of the finest bassists of her generation. The Wall Street Journal claims that “her innovative range and stellar improvisations have made [her] one of the most dynamic rising stars in jazz today.” 

Come to the Jazz Center at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 to find out what happens when three of the very top musicians in their field come together to explore the endless possibilities of improvisation. What tunes will they play? Will they revisit The Police’s “Synchronicity I,” or Charlie Parker’s “Relaxing at Camarillo” like they did on their eponymous debut? Will the stage explode with their intensity? What we do know is that the music will be exciting and energetic, filled with passion and substance. We will be left slack-jawed and impressed, but we will also realize that these musicians play for the love of it. Blake, May Han Oh and Potter came together as this trio in 2018 and realized that together they formed a synchronistic entity that has a life of its own.

This concert is proof that they will continue to perform when their schedules align because this constellation is fun and artistically fulfilling. This concert is a rare experience because each of these master musicians is so busy, it is a “do not miss show” that is highly recommended.

The VJC is grateful for the sponsorship of this concert by Diana Bingham, a dear friend who has been personally involved with VJC programs for many years. Ms. Bingham is especially concerned with sharing the diverse riches of jazz with our community and supporting female artists. Publicity is underwritten by The Commons and The Brattleboro Reformer. The VJC is also grateful to the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Humanities Council and New England Foundation of the Arts for their support and increased efforts to stabilize the existence of arts organizations during the pandemic.

Admission to this in-person event is offered on a sliding fee scale from $20 to $50 per person and all seats are general admission. Mask wearing will be required for entry. Be sure to purchase your tickets soon as this event will likely sell out quickly.

Tickets and information are available online at and by email at Handicapped access is available by emailing

The online streaming of this concert will be offered free of charge but donations are welcomed and just a click away. Give generously and support live music. Access to the online event and ways to give can be found online at and at

Eugene Uman is the director of the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro.