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I was very fortunate to have a chance to witness this incredible group play at the Bagdad Theater in Portland last month. It was such a moving experience for me, but it is very difficult to explain in words. Youtube videos have captured the notes played, and even some of the audience reaction can be felt, but the real experience of being at the show just can't be expressed in these formats. No matter the tune being played, from a bass clarinet and pump organ meditation, to a high-energy screaming funky soul jam, there was never a moment where the group lost its primary focus: spirituality. I'm not talking about God in a Christian way, but instead a feeling that everyone in the room was connected by a bigger power.
While many people could go and see Brian Blade play the drums and say "WOW. There is nothing that he can't play! Unbelievable!" they would be right. His chops are on par with the best drummers in the world, but what sets him apart is the creativity and openness that he brings to his playing. For example, there was a moment where he was trying to figure out the best way to play a tambourine in the middle of a tune. He must have tried 5 or 6 different things, one of which resulted in him dropping his drumstick, and of course this only added to his creativity even more (his inner dialogue must have been saying "How about that, I dropped my stick. I'll just pick it up--hey, I could make some sound on the low-tom hardware while I'm down here...") It was pure joy to watch him PLAY with the music. No one in the group was trying to show off their incredible technical skills, they were just playing for each other, and for us.
If this impromptu review leaves you confused or uninspired, remember I'm not a music critic or a concert reviewer for a reason. Just do yourself a favor--If you EVER get a chance to see Brian Blade play live, don't pass up the chance. It may change your whole outlook on music, or on life in general.