I first heard the Brian Blade Fellowship, now known as Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, in 2003 when they performed at the Ballard Jazz Festival. I was not familiar with any of the musicians in the band except for Blade, and it was honestly one of the most significant turning points in my musical development. The songs were melodic, sweeping, and epic, and the improvisations throughout were creative and free of any cliche or standard ideas. I had been in the Jazz Studies program at the University of Washington for a year or two, and that concert blew my mind.
After that, the band’s second album, Perceptual, was my musical world. I listened to that CD obsessively, listening to the songs, and also thinking about how expressive the soloists were. From there I went back to the first album, just called Brian Blade Fellowship, and then back to Perceptual, and then some time passed.
In 2006, my classmate and bandmate Tarik Abouzied called a group of musicians together to play: me, Neil Welch, Evan Flory-Barnes, Nathan Vetter, and a piano player that had just recently moved back to town from the East Coast: Tim Kennedy (I’ve talked about Tim several times on this blog in the past). At the end of the hang, Neil played us a bootlegged recording he had of the Fellowship, playing live somewhere, and it blew my world up all over again! It was all the feelings I had had in 2003, from the same band, and I listened to that recording non-stop once again, playing it and burning it for anyone that would listen. The Fellowship did release more albums, which I picked up of course, then some time passed again.
In 2013 or 2014, videos of that bootlegged concert showed up on Youtube. It turned out to be from the Jazz Baltica festival in Europe. We finally had video of those songs we had listened to all those years back! Now I’m going back once again, learning some of the solos from that concert, and it is great to dig in to this music again. Here is a short clip of Myron Walden’s solo from the first song on the bootleg. Thanks Brian Blade, Jon Cowherd, Chris Thomas, Myron Walden, Melvin Butler, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Dave Easley, and everyone else involved in the Fellowship!