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Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band: Landmarks

Wayne Shorter is the most self-effacing of bandleaders; he often plays with such reticence that you’d never guess he was the star unless you glanced at an album’s credits or noticed his bandmates’ reactions to his cues during a gig. Brian Blade, Shorter’s drummer for the past 13 years, is similarly understated. On Landmarks, the new album credited to Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band, you don’t even hear his drums until more than two minutes into the second track, and they don’t take the foreground until the beginning of the sixth track.

And yet, like his employer/mentor, Blade controls nearly every tune with not-always-obvious elements: fat-bottomed tone, strong melodic themes and an acceleration and deceleration of pace that always pushes and pulls against expectations. This is not an album of young musicians trying to prove how many notes and changes they can play within eight bars; this is a session devoted to milking all the emotion lurking in the hymn-like melodies and wistful tempos. It’s a testament to Blade’s leadership that his fellow musicians rein in their considerable technical facility to bring all that feeling to the fore.

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