Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some observations on a Brian Blade performance

Last night Brian Blade played in town, and I thought I'd share a few impressions from it. I can't promise they hold any sway outside of that concert as perceived by me from the side of the room, around row 15. Some of them are contradictory, and none of them are criticism- except regarding the sound of the room. That was just bad. 

- Here's an example of a drummer generating energy by his engagement and his presence. The vibraphonist, Joe Locke, would've filled that role if Blade hadn't been present.

- Huge range of dynamics, of course. There were brief moments when the drums were the loudest instrument on stage. Maybe once per tune, or less, and for just a few notes at most. Not always at the obvious spot in the form, or at the peak of the arc, and usually not in unison with another instrument. The music had a notably more one-dimensional feel when he wasn't making those; the more sustained-dynamic sections would've fared better on a recording, or in a more intimate setting. The take-away: make big punctuations, but judiciously.

- Noting to myself the difference between music designed to wow a large live audience and music made for other purposes. At one point in my life these massive climactic moments seemed to be the central purpose of music; now I see them more as a device for appealing to a festival audience. I don't especially look for them in recorded music.

- Those Gretsch hoops sure sound clunky. They're part of the terrain of jazz drumming, but they really don't make a musical rim shots.

More astute observations and a few BB YouTube clips after the break:

- He seemed to be dancing along the top of the time rather than generating it himself. The setting was made by the very strong piano and bass.

- Though busy, his playing was not actually over-complex, or multi-layered. There were no flashy technical things- "cutting edge" or otherwise- in use that I could see; most serious college-level jazz drummers would be well familiar with his language. Linear, very horn-like conception, always playing counter lines.

- Seemed to play less with the soloist and more with the rhythm section, and off of/in support of the structure.

- Played 13 and 16" toms, medium tuning, wide open. Traditional big-drum jazz sound. The room and sound engineering were bad, so the drums sounded muddy and lacked punch, unfortunately. Ride cymbal looked like a 24" medium-thin K.

You can get a good look at him here:


Unknown said...

Who was he playing with?

It is hard for me not to turn into a 13 year old girl when I talk about Blade, it is always such a pleasure to see/hear him play in person.

Todd Bishop said...

It was the pianist Darrell Grant's event- there was also Joe Locke and Steve Wilson, and a bassist whose name I missed- he teaches at the jazz school outside of Boise. I think that was the first time I've seen Blade play since he moved to Portland a couple of years ago- it's too bad the sound was so lousy. It was especially hard to hear Wilson.