Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band are celebrating their 20th anniversary as a unit with the release of their fifth studio album on Blue Note Records entitled Body and Shadow. The album albeit brief is an important one vowing to be a “meditation on lightness/darkness that arrives like a balm for the soul, ebbing and flowing with grace, subtlety and no shortness of beauty”. I caught up with the illustrious Mr. Blade and the following exchange ensued.
Sébastien Hélary: Your new album is entitled Body and Shadow. It’s succinct and to the point running at a little over half an hour. Can you explain your thought-process for this record? How did it all come about? In your own words, what is the meaning of Body and Shadow?
Brian Blade: Body and Shadow is meant to be an encouraging word when we feel kind of disconnected within the world or when we find ourselves in an atmosphere of division. It reminds us that God’s light shines over the whole environment, over the just and the unjust, over the lovers and the naysayers.
SH: The album features three songs titled “Body and Shadow” differentiated with the labels “morning”, “noon” and “night” as well as two versions of “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”, a solo version and a band version. The other tracks are named “Within Everything”, “Traveling Mercies”, “Duality” and the lead single “Broken Leg Days”. Can you help us decipher this nomenclature?
BB: The song titles are personal to myself and Jon Cowherd, who composed “Traveling Mercies”, “Duality” and “Broken Leg Days”. It is really up to the listener to decipher how the titles might construct a storyline.
SH: The album is undoubtedly a spiritual and meditative endeavor on your part, a deeply relaxing and soothing opus. If you don’t mind me asking, how do you define your personal spirituality? What is the message you are trying to convey to listeners?
BB: I hope that folks who hear our music will be encouraged and inspired and brought into a deeper and more reflective place in life.
SH: You’ve had an incredibly successful career and you’ve performed with some of the biggest names in the industry including Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, and many many more. Do you have any advice for all the aspiring musicians out there? Are there some important lessons you’ve learned from these masters and peers you’d like to share with us?
BB: Having great teachers and finding that reflection in great friends to make music and share life with is what it’s all about. All the opportunities in my life have been a blessing and I couldn’t have made them happen on my own.
SH: What is your opinion on the state of the music industry specifically related to jazz music and what are your thoughts on streaming services such as Spotify?
BB: I feel like however someone discovers music is good. I cannot speak about streaming services and such because that is not how I listen to music. I go to record stores in most every city that I visit and I listen to National Public Radio at home and during my travels.
Body and Shadow by Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band is out now on Blue Note Records.
Sébastien Hélary co-founded Nextbop in 2009 with the objective of introducing modern jazz music to a younger generation of fans. Aside from music, his other main obsession is food, particularly ramen and other Japanese delicacies.