Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2008 release of Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band which is their first new album in eight years by this critically acclaimed ensemble. Season of Changes finds the dynamic performer and composer reunited with his writing partner and muse, Jon Cowherd (Lizz Wright's Salt) and the critically acclaimed guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Brian Blade is universally acknowledged as one of the finest drummers and musicians in all of popular music. His resume is as diverse as it is impressive having recorded and or/performed with Bob Dylan, Daniel Lanois, Bill Frisell, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Joshua Redman, Seal, Wayne Shorter and more. 9 tracks.
"On his eighth album, Little Things Run The World, bassist/composer Ben Allison delves further into the cinematic Americana explored on his previous release, Cowboy Justice (Palmetto, 2007). Inspired by a quote from biodiversity expert E.O. Wilson, the album features a selection of multi-layered tunes that rely on structural interdependency as much as the social organisms Wilson studied.
Naming the ensemble Man Size Safe, after a news item about the ominous item located in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, Allison expresses his dissatisfaction with the current political climate through titling - similar to a previous era's socially active jazz bassist, Charles Mingus. Like his conceptual forefather, Allison transposes his frustration with current events into emotionally complex works of great beauty.
Allison's facility for conjuring lush soundscapes from a limited instrumental palette places him in a rarefied league. Bittersweet melodies, rich contrapuntal harmonies and syncopated cross-rhythms all coalesce under the banner of jazz improvisation. An unclassifiable sound, Allison offers a buoyantly optimistic view of American music informed by non-Western traditions.
Augmenting the former album's instrumental line-up with a guest appearance from saxophonist Michael Blake, Allison is rejoined by trumpeter Ron Horton and guitarist Steve Cardenas, with drummer Michael Sarin replacing Jeff Ballard. Seamlessly integrated into his acoustic writing, Allison's recent foray into the electro-acoustic world reveals an organic mastery over pop song structures and timbres.
Allison's embrace of rock and pop devices is more dominant than before, courtesy (in part) of guitarist Steve Cardenas. "Respiration" and "Man Size Safe" feature concise but searing guitar solos, with Cardenas releasing a fractured, churning salvo on the former, burning with surgical focus on the later. Offering a variety of tonal colors beyond brittle distortion, he unfurls kaleidoscopic textures on the jaunty Afro-pop of "Four Folk Songs" and paints with a shimmering Spanish patina on "Roll Credits."
Ron Horton, the ensemble's key voice, contributes a multitude of expressions, ranging from mellifluous tenderness on Cardenas' Frisellian "Language Of Love" to blustery pyrotechnics on the punchy "Man Size Safe." Guest saxophonist Michael Blake delivers an architecturally robust tenor solo on the title track, and switching to soprano on "Blowback," dovetailing seamlessly with Horton as they spiral through a dreamy, melancholy vamp of escalating drama.
One of today's most creative drummers, Mike Sarin's long-established rapport with Allison enables their graceful navigation of the stop-start rhythms, unusual time signatures and intricate syncopation of these elaborate tunes.
From their bluesy interpretation of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" and the lilting euphony of "Roll Credits" to the anthemic swell of the title track, Man Size Safe demonstrates how beautiful sanguinity can be derived from dark source material. Accessible and adventurous, Little Things Run The World offers the sound of hope in a world that needs all it can get." -AllAboutJazz
Down Beat (p.87) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[S]teeped in spiritual yearning. Blade interlaces his compositions with dramatic flair and soft sobriety, asserting himself on skins when needed but never overwhelming the group's tender balance of voices."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.113) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Broadly evocative of '70s deep jazz and prog rock, both Blade's and pianist Jon Cowherd's originals tend toward a grand melancholy which gives the group an expansive quality."
Blender (Magazine) (p.85) - "The Fellowship interacts like a jazz group even as it purveys a monumental, suitelike sensibility, with complex forms, big narrative arcs and prevailing folk-rock melancholy."
Personnel: Brian Blade (drums); Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar); Myron Walden (bass clarinet, alto saxophone); Melvin Butler (tenor saxophone); Jon Cowherd (keyboards); Christ Thomas (upright bass).
Drummer Brian Blade made his reputation as a jazz musician, but he's also laid down the beat for iconic singer/songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Make no mistake however, SEASON OF CHANGES is most definitely a jazz album, albeit one where aspects of gospel, rock, country, folk, and blues are felt. SEASON consists of brainy soloing that is alternately torrid (sax guys Myron Walden and Melvin Butler) and melodious (especially from guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkle), thoughtful and creative ensemble playing, and compositions that never go quite where you expect but are beguiling anyway.
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- Quiver [Digipak] (Miles, Ron (Trumpet))