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Published: 2009/01/25
by Dan Alford

Blue Floyd and Brian Blade

Quick Picks:
Phish 7/2/98, Set II- 4 Song Space Funk Set
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Fillmore East 1970- Perfect
Ratdog 11/3/07- Full Show Terrapin Sandwich with Kimock
The Band 8/16/76- Brilliant DC Gig
moe. 7/20/07- Road > Lazarus > Skrunk > Road
A quick note that Im dishing out tunes for Stormy Mondays in the Hidden Track section of www.glidemagazine.com. Come check it out.
Blue Floyd, Blue Floyd Begins, Disc 1
Blue Floyd was one of the great, underrated side projects of all time- a mosh of Allmans, Crowes and Mule elements, with a good shake of friends tossed in, reinterpreting the Pink Floyd song book in grungy little bars. They were also the early progenitors of Instant Live type recordings back in 2000 you could order soundboards from the band, though if memory serves, they werent cheap. With the band having faded after Woodys death, and probably never having had that big an audience, it seemed odd that they would go back to those recordings to release the double disc Blue Floyd Begins in the spring of 2008; but its a certainly a fun listen, rough and rowdy psychedelic blues music.
The first disc, which is the stronger of the two, opens with a long, soupy take on Shine On You Crazy Diamond layered with samples from HAL (_2001 A Space Odyssey_) and Psycho, and a hot version of Helpless thats just about perfect. The music roars up into a short, raging Interstellar Overdrive, and Woodys thick, fuzzy bass leads to Wish You Were Here. Johnny Neel, the gravelly voice of the band, flubs the first line, but then it is simply gorgeous, with a killer guitar solo from Audley Freed. It goes long and opens into an increasingly lush jam with pretty, synthy organ at the end. Drumz follows with a long, but sparsely played and heady Heart of the Sun- when the song itself arrives, its even more stark, scary with a intense, clamorous rise to finish.
Another Brick in the Wall is slow to start, but at about eight minutes in it suddenly jumps and grooves and kicks some serious ass. A long organ jam stretches out with wanky guitar lines threading through and Neel works out some blues rapping that eventually returns to the lyrics for a big finale. The second disc is less consistent, but it does include a mega-blues take on Money, Neal howling out Just groove on this here woo! and a long, entrenched Us and Them that gets better and better as it expands over 18 minutes.
Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, The Village Vanguard, 6/18/08
This recording of the Fellowship Band is part of WBGOs relationship with The Village Vanguard, and is available for free on npr.org/music, and Jazz Set just broadcasted the second set on January 22. Blade is the premier drummer of his generation, playing with everyone who is anyone in jazz, from Joshua Redman to Christian McBride, but is probably best known for his work as part of the stunning Wayne Shorter Quartet and his session work outside the jazz world, such as his recordings with Bob Dylan. His own band, which is really equally keyboardist John Cowherds band, is a fantastic ensemble of the very best musicians pushing into new areas of jazz composition, improvisation and American sounds.
The playing here is gorgeous, especially the alto sax on Prodigal Son. The lead stands out, but whats even more prominent is the rich collective tone of this band, how muscular and graceful the music is; how they float through passages and momentary tempo shifts like a leaf in a breeze. The moody, but catchy Stoner Hill gets a somewhat open treatment, and the bass comes through so clearly, really glows, especially in the moments when there is only bass and drums, maybe Cowherd too- on the first little switch and turn of the bands opus, Season of Changes. Myron Waldens alto shines again at the end, eking out from under Blades decomposing rhythm while Cowherd holds it together, but only barely- great, great jazz. The show ends with the syrupy drone of Alpha and Omega, bass clarinet and organ, and a Kings Highway encore. Its a hurricane piece, totally intense and aggressive, and finally some real shredding from guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, the best guitarist nobodys heard of. Theres a fat bass solo from Chris Thomas that falls into a back and forth with tenor player Melvin Butler, Cowherd and Blade growing up from below and emphasizing the one. The keys rise gloriously to the surface and the music collapses in a Blade solo, a musing on destruction and rebuilding.

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