Today we don’t just have a song of the day, but a whole album! I was going to feature drummer Brian Blade and his Fellowship Band anyway, then noticed that NPR has his forthcoming album on its “First Listen” series today. So buckle in and prepare to be transported to another world.
If you’re not familiar with Blade, he’s one of the most sought-after and recorded drummers of his generation. He has played with heavy hitters in jazz and non-jazz music such as Joshua Redman, Daniel Lanois, Joni Mitchell, Ellis Marsalis, Bill Frisell, Marianne Faithfull, Emmylou Harris, Billy Childs, Herbie Hancock, Dorothy Scott and Bob Dylan. That’s quite an array of musicians, and Blade always seems to bring just the right thing to each band he graces. Of special note is the role he’s played in Wayne Shorter’s celebrated quartet for the last dozen years.
His jazz playing is deeply indebted to Elvin Jones and Tony Williams. He can play whisper-quiet accompaniment or tear your head off with his power, and often does so in the same song! Hi Fellowship Band, which he began more than 15 years ago, is the perfect showcase for his talent, as they are not what you’d consider a straight-ahead, swinging jazz band. Make no mistake: they can swing hard, but they are not tied down to one style of music, and their albums are cinematic in scope.
The current band consists of longtime members Myron Walden and Melvin Butler on woodwinds, Chris Thomas on bass, Jon Cowherd on piano, and Jeff Parker and Marvin Sewell on guitar.
I hope you’ll follow the link above and check out the new album, in part or whole, before its release date of April 29. If you want a taste of the band live, check out this incredible footage from Chicago in from 2013. The song is called “King’s Highway.”
Jason Parker is a Seattle-based jazz trumpet player, educator and writer. His band, The Jason Parker Quartet, was hailed by Earshot Jazz as “the next generation of Seattle jazz.” Find out more about Jason and his music at jasonparkermusic.com.