Drummer, composer, bandleader: the words seem inadequate. Brian Blade is an experience. Leaving his creative imprint on a wide swath of jazz and pop over the last 25 years, the Shreveport, La., native surrenders bodily to everything he plays, moving freely and joyfully in and around the beat, whether taking part in the stratospheric invention of the Wayne Shorter Quartet or offering exquisitely restrained accompaniment with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Beth Orton, or Rebecca Martin. As leader of the Fellowship Band, he has made music of folk-like beauty and great cathartic power—qualities that also inform his sometime work as a singer/songwriter (on 2009’s Mama Rosa).
It’s hard to pick highlights from the embarrassment of riches that make up Blade’s discography, but he graciously indulged us, speaking to JazzTimes from his home in Shreveport. “It’s funny to look back and think of a list that spans so many years,” he said. “It’s comforting, and it puts my reflective hat on. I start reeling at the good things that have happened—such a blessing!” It is indeed, for him and all of us. The words that follow are Blade’s own, edited as necessary for concision and flow.