My Favorites (Jazz): "Crooked Creek" Brian Blade Fellowship
You almost don’t even notice that the song is in 5/4 meter because the playing is so cohesive and it feels so natural. None of the solos are forced, they don’t feel like they are counting the rhythm even though it’s in an odd meter. The musicians really “feel “ the time and have a connection with each other that makes the music come together even more.
“Crooked Creek” is the fourth track on Brian Blade’s second album (of three) with his Fellowship band. There is so much to this composition that you have to appreciate the time spent to create a piece of music like this. But the appreciation doesn’t stop there, the sections flow together and make sense. It’s not like when you listen to a song with a lot of sections that the only thing you can appreciate is that the composer took a lot of time to write the piece, yet there is no overall unity to the song. In this composition the song has a nice shape with balance and continuity. More than that, the musicians perform the piece with an understanding of the song and interject their own personalities in a meaningful way.
The piece begins with a repeated rhythmic figure played by the guitar that is repeated throughout. When the melody comes in there are some nice contrapuntal horn lines that accentuate the rhythm and intelligently weave in between through the pauses in the melody. As a horn player I can appreciate a well-crafted horn line and this song does not disappoint. As the song progresses there are some nice variations to the solo sections. The guitar solo comes in on a high note whereas the alto solo entrance is subdued and quiet, then ramps up at the end. The vamp at the end with the alto solo climaxes to an emotional peak and tapers off with the last musical statement all charged with Blade’s accents and cymbal work.
Brian Blade is one of, if not my favorite jazz drummer. He plays each piece of the drum set as if he has a set meaning for each stroke. If you watch him play he is so focused and is fully in the moment taking his time to express his music thoughtfully. This is definitely infectious and the rest of the band takes their time to craft their solos as well. I am a little biased because I went to high school with the alto player, Myron Walden, and knew of his musical prowess even at an early age. His playing has always been thoughtful and meaningful which is a perfect fit for Mr. Blade.
The playing from the other musicians is just as impactful and I know all their solos by heart after listening to the song so much. That, to me, is what makes good music. Thoughtful, heartfelt composition with enough complexity to keep your interest and enough melody to make you remember the song after it’s over.
I’m not prone to being a fan in the "groupie" sense of the term and I don’t know if that’s because I’m a musician and know too much about the music-making process, but if there is any band that I would follow and wait anxiously for each recording it would be Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band.
Brian Blade - drums
Myron Walden - alto saxophone
Melvin Butler - soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Jon Cowherd - Fender Rhodes piano
Daniel Lanois - guitar, acoustic guitar
Kurt Rosenwinkel - acoustic guitar, electric guitar