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Perceptual (2000)

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Brian Blade

With this second date from the Fellowship, Brian Blade proves that while he is one of the most in-demand session drummers of the '90s, his skills as a bandleader and composer are not to be overlooked. Blade composes songs as if he were painting a broad mural. He sculpts landscapes of sound, orchestral in their feel and truly breathtaking in their grandeur. His own playing, sinuous and breathy, ties the septet together in ways that recall the best progressive jazz of the 1960s, as well as the fusion of the 1970s. Inspired by childhood memories of fishing the Louisiana bayous of his youth on "Evinrude-Fifty (Trembling)"; or ethnic strife around the world, as on the three-part epic "Variations of a Bloodline"; or by the violent world that children must face every day "Steadfast," Blade broadens the scope and ambition of his music even further, almost matching its melodic breadth. New guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel adds dynamic colors to the group's sound, and the solos from pedal steel player Dave Easley are again transcendent. For Perceptual, Blade even handled production duties himself, and in all honesty, turned in a finished product more complete and engaging the group's Daniel Lanois-produced debut. Lanois plays spooky fuzz guitar on one track, and former Blade employer Joni Mitchell adds a willowy vocal on another. ~ John Duffy