Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band – Body And Shadow (2017)

Share this:

Body And Shadow arrives with the reserved poise that’s marked the previous four releases of Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band but in this new era of divisiveness and uncertainty, it feels more welcome than ever before. Coming a ‘mere’ three years after the sweet and folksy Landmarks — the band usually takes much more time than that to put forth new material — this latest from the quintet led by its namesake drummer and keyboardist/fellow composer Jon Cowherd adheres closely to its proven formula first established in its 1998 debut, Brian Blade Fellowship.

Blade and Cowherd are joined by the dual horn section of Myron Walden (alto sax, bass clarinet) and Melvin Butler (tenor sax), as well as bassist Chris Thomas; these five have been there from the band’s first album. The guitar chores this time are filled by Dave Devine, whose radiant, evocative style is the right match for this group.

Blade and Cowherd jointly produce and arrange Body And Shadow but share songwriting duties in an interesting way: Blade contributes numerous shorter, impressionistic pieces while Cowherd was responsible for the three extended compositions. Yet, all of it (including a recital of the old spiritual “Have Thine Own Way”) sounds inspired from the same mind.

The compendious “Within Everything” that initiates Body And Shadow reaffirms the approach of the Fellowship band, its folk-based chord changes and straightforward rhythm that — as always — showcases Blade the songwriter and bandleader more than the world-class, first-call drummer that he is. Devine’s guitars assert itself by both resonant acoustic and caustic electric “Body And Shadow (Noon),” a song fragment molded into its own peaceful meditation, later followed up with companion vignettes “Body And Shadow (Morning)” and “Body And Shadow (Night)”

This graceful brand of Americana jazz proffered by The Fellowship works just as well in longer form, starting with Cowherd’s “Traveling Mercies,” founded upon a piano figure that’s immediately deepened by all the other instruments jumping in as a unit (putting truth to Cowherd’s assertion that “we think of the band as a collective instrument”). There’s no one stepping out to solo here but there’s no question the subtly modulating cadence is being expertly directed by Blade.

“Duality” swings dynamically, providing Blade with opportunities to leverage his boundless facility on drums as the song’s composer Cowherd solos emphatically on piano. But living up to its title, the tempo slows down and the harmony changes to a folk melody midway through and Walden is soon heard making convincing pleas on alto saxophone. “Broken Leg Days” (video above) is characterized by artful piano lead lines paired first with guitar and then sax and finally, the piano handing off to other sax.

Always putting spirituality above improvisation, Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band connects to listeners in a way uncommon for jazz musicians, and Body And Shadow continues a remarkable consistency of mission and quality spanning two decades.

Body And Shadow goes on sale November 10, 2017 from Blue Note Records.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
Share this:
Close