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I love Brian Blade as a drummer, but I love him even more as a perfect example of a musician who floats between multiple styles without sacrificing either the integrity of the style or his own signature sound within the style. So I wrote a post about that a few years ago.

But today’s From The Archives post isn’t done yet. If you’re a Blade fan like I am then you should revisit this comprehensive irockjazz.com post about him (complete with bio and selected Youtube footage) as well as this allaboutjazz.com article about Blade’s singer/songwriter release from 2009. Then, if you’re really dedicated, check out this Ottawa Citizen article about the Fellowship Band and this interview with Blade about the inspiration and influence that he’s taken from Joni Mitchell.

Well done, Brian.

The video of Joey Baron that I posted the other day reminded me of how much I like that guy… which got me thinking about other jazz players I like.  In typical geek fashion, I was soon formulating a “Top Five” list of my fav jazz players.  Here’s what said list currently looks like:

1. Tony Williams
2. Elvin Jones
3. Jeff Watts
4. Joey Baron
5. Brian Blade

This is in order.  Tony will always be my number one – BUT, this list leaves out David King (my former teacher), who is automatically tied for the number one spot, just by nature of his immense influence on my playing.

Honorable mentions:

– Paul Motian
– Jack DeJohnette
– Jorge Rossy
– Roy Haynes
– Max Roach
– Ralph Peterson Jr.
– Billy Higgins

Man… Brian Blade is definitely one of my favorite drummers right now. He has so much control, his ideas are so musical, and his groove is so comfortable. Love it.

Brian Blade is on my mind today because I’ve been listening to Danial Lanois’ “Shine” quite a bit. Blade just destroys that record. His feel, his comfort and vocabulary… unbelievable. The album is a singer-songwriter style, and so Blade is of course playing appropriately within that realm. BUT, he is also a widely respected jazz player. THAT is the main point of this post.

I’ve had more than a few musicians whom I respect tell me that my best bet is to pigeon-hole my efforts on the drums into one genre/sound, and just try to make that as killing as I can. I understand the logic: don’t waste time trying to improve your weaknesses, just focus on making your strengths even stronger and soon you will be the only fish in the pond that anyone wants to work with, when it comes to those strengths. This idea is big in the business world, and it makes sense to a degree… but I’m not sure it applies to Art.

I studied jazz music extensively in college, and I’ve also spent a lot of time in pop/rock settings. In fact, I’ve done quite a bit of gospel lately, and some alt-country, and even some electronica/drum-n-bass. Therefore, I’m obviously in danger of spreading myself too thin according to the “ignore-your-weakness-promote-your-strength” mantra, but I don’t see it that way. I feel like I have learned concepts in studying jazz that I can apply to rock… things that make my rock playing different from another rock drummer who has never studied jazz. Conversely, I can bring rock elements into my jazz that sound hopefully make my jazz playing unique. Of course, I have to have a solid understanding of the difference between rock and jazz, but having a presence in both worlds is a challenge that I enjoy taking on.

Actually, I believe learning about and participating in many different styles/genres is an essential element to feeding creativity in your playing. I guess I just disagree with the advice I’ve been given. Maybe I’ll recant in a few years when I am wiser, but for now, I encourage every musician who reads this blog to surround yourself with as many different-sounding records as you can find, and soak them all in.

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