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Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band: Kings Highway

Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band: Kings Highway
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines fellowship as "community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience," which seems to state well what Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band have been doing, cultivating a certain sound for over 25 years. The community is drummer Brian Blade, pianist Jon Cowherd, saxophonist Melvin Butler, saxophonist and clarinetist Myron Walden, bassist and synthesizer player Christopher Thomas and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. The interest and activity these folks share is playing music, specifically jazz music. Finally, the feeling or experience one gets from the music is one of joy and inspiration. One can only guess at the joy they experience performing together, but the music makes a strong case for it.

Listening to Kings Highway one can feel this fellowship, the solidarity of the musicians, their sense of purpose to achieve a feeling that goes beyond the notes or the technical abilities of the individual players. Not all jazz is like this. Often a particular soloist is forefront, supported by the others driving the leader's vision and solos to express themselves.

The opening track, Blades' "Until We Meet Again," starts with synth and then guitar and piano, bass, some brushes on the drums then the horns, building a repeating melody until the whole ensemble is playing boldly and solemnly together. The next track, "Catalysts," starts off more upbeat with the guitar and then the sax and later the synth taking us on a journey. One destination along the way is the next track, "People's Park," which, as with the previous track, written by pianist Jon Coward, is a quieter place for reflection and contemplation. Back on the highway we go again in the form of the 13-minute title track which has a jazz-rock fusion feel to it until it melts into a cool bass solo that leads into some great playing by the two sax players and finally the pianist expressing himself joyfully. "Kings Highway " is a standout cut and well picked to be the album's title. Now further down the road we "Look To The Hills," which starts out with railroad drumming leading to some more spiritual passages.

Spiritual is a word that comes to mind often when listening to this band. Though this recording feels more fusion inspired at times than previous albums, there is always a return to a sound with a palpable sense of a searching for holiness, for truth, for fellowship, not only amongst the players, but with the listeners as well. The album ends with a spiritual hymn and prayer named "God Be With You," written by William G. Tomer (the only track not written by Blade or Cowherd) and setting a final, beautiful, solemn tone to the record. With this record Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band invite the listener along to join their fellowship on a musical highway of life, and so we should.

Track Listing

Until We Meet Again; Catalysts; People's Park; Kings Highway; Look To The Hills; Migration; God Be With You.


Album information

Title: Kings Highway | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Stoner Hill

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