Brian Blade will say he's just the drummer in the band. But Blade isn't just any player, having credits ranging from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell along with Joshua Redman and Wayne Shorter. His understatement neatly fits the carefully nuanced improvisation on his new record with the Fellowship Band, Season of Changes (Verve). Group founders-leaders Blade and pianist Jon Cowherd wrote all the material on the new record, which they'll feature in performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival Sept. 21 and at Yoshi's SF Sept. 22.
Season stresses the cool, cerebral resonance the ensemble has forged throughout their decade of playing together. "The core of the sound comes from Jon's writing and his expression at the piano," Blade says by phone from Portland, Ore. Blade and Cowherd have been friends since meeting at Loyola University in New Orleans. "Somehow our songs fit together," Blade explains. "I think that has to do with our relationship and a bond we have that gives the music a cohesiveness as a listening experience."
Humility becomes Blade and once again, he stresses that he's simply the drummer with the Wayne Shorter Quartet. But that notion would minimize the amazing collective musicianship of the band led by the saxophonist-composer: It's been together for eight years now with Danilo Pérez on piano and John Patitucci on bass. Shorter and the outfit make a series of rare club dates at Yoshi's in Oakland beginning Sept. 30.
Blade seems to have struck the perfect balance between working with Shorter and finding his own voice within the composer's music. "We want to be true to Wayne's vision obviously," he observes, "and we try to submit to that. But he wants us to take our own way."
"'Take a chance' is what he would say," Blade concludes. "It's challenging to suddenly be thrown out there to walk the wire, so to speak, but we've grown into being each other's safety net." 2
BRIAN BLADE AND THE FELLOWSHIP BAND
Mon/22, 8 and 10 p.m., $10$16
1330 Fillmore, SF
WAYNE SHORTER QUARTET
Sept. 30Oct. 4, 8 and 10 p.m.; Oct. 5, 7 and 9 p.m., $40$70
510 Embarcadero West, Oakl