His evolution continued on his astounding, highly acclaimed Blue Note debut, Brian Blade Fellowship. Brian's band, is as potent as its leader's musical skills: Jon Cowherd, piano and Wurlitzer, Christopher Thomas on bass, Melvin Butler, tenor and soprano sax, Myron Walden, alto sax, Jeff Parker, guitar; and Dave Easley, pedal steel guitar.. Brian Blade Fellowship. "I wanted to take a second step in the same direction."
Blade aims to change the world. "If people could be one tenth as inspired as I am by the sound this band makes, then things might get a little better."
Far from your typical young jazz artist, drummer Brian Blade seems almost bent on avoiding classification. Hes been found in the studio and/or on the road with such disparate employers as Joshua Redman, Bob Dylan, Seal, and Joni Mitchell. With technical prowess of obvious proportions, Blade is equally reticent about flashy drum displays, content to merely color and prod the composition at hand. All of this is as much apparent in his sideman stints as it is with his two Blue Note dates as a leader, Perceptual being the latest offering by his collective known as The Brian Blade Fellowship.
A more varied and ultimately satisfying affair than the groups 1998 debut, Perceptual is still nonetheless a dark and brooding journey that has as its underlying theme societys current lack of humanity and value for young lives, keyboardist Jon Cowherds "Reconciliation" being directly influenced by the shootings in Paducah, Kentucky. Much of what comprises this hour-long recital is of a restrained and pensive nature and those hoping for lengthy drum solos and the typical "burn-out" type of improvisations will have to look elsewhere. In fact, very little of the material here swings in the conventional sense, save for sections of "Steadfast" and the 5/4 lilt of "Crooked Creek."
The one new addition to this group since the last record is that of guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and its a curious one. I say this in consideration of the clear association between the spirit of this set and that of Rosenwinkels own recent The Enemies of Energy. Stretching the comparisons even further, the Nordic strains of Jan Garbareks musical personality (not to mention an overall chamber- like quality akin to the ECM mantra) are more than hinted at during the lengthy suite, "Variations of a Bloodline." All of this is not to suggest mere rote regurgitation on Blades part, but to provide point of reference for the uninitiated.
In the final analysis, Perceptual is a very likable and intoxicating brew that benefits from a collective sound that finds no one person in particular dominating the proceedings. The key will be for Blade, Rosenwinkel, and other purveyors of these latest musical developments to make sure they dont run aground much in the same way that the renaissance fostered by Marsalis and his ilk during the 80 led to many dead-end roads.
By Chris Hovan