Brian Blade first music he experienced was gospel and songs of praise at the Zion Baptist Church where his father, Brady L. Blade, Sr., has been the pastor for fifty-two years. In elementary school, music appreciation classes were an important part of his development and at age nine, he began playing the violin. Inspired by his older brother, Brady Blade, Jr., who had been the drummer at Zion Baptist Church, Brian shifted his focus to the drums throughout middle and high school.
During high school, while studying with Dorsey Summerfield, Jr., Blade began listening to the music of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Elvin Jones, and Joni Mitchell. By the age of eighteen, Brian moved to New Orleans to attend Loyola University. From 1988 through 1993, he studied and played with most of the master musicians living in New Orleans, including John Vidacovich, Ellis Marsalis, Steve Masakowski, Bill Huntington, Mike Pellera, John Mahoney, George French, Germaine Bazzle, David Lee, Jr., Alvin Red Tyler, Tony Dagradi and Harold Battiste.
In 1997, Blade formed The Fellowship Band with pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Chris Thomas, saxophonists Myron Walden and Melvin Butler, guitarist Jeff Parker, pedal steel guitarist Dave Easley, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. The band released its debut album, Brian Blade Fellowship, in 1998, Perceptual in 2000, Season of Changes in 2008, Landmarks in 2014, and Body and Shadow in 2017.
Reviewing the band’s 2014 Landmarks album, John Kelman wrote:
As the Fellowship Band has grown, it has moved away from overt traditional references, even though they’re an undercurrent throughout. Instead, as it explores milestones both inner and outer, Landmarks further speaks with the singular voice that the Fellowship Band has built upon since inception. Blending folkloric references, hints of church and spiritual concerns, jazz modality and countrified touchstones, Landmarks is the perfect name for Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band’s fourth album; beyond its meaning to the group, it truly is yet another landmark recording in the core quintet’s evolutionary travels. It may have come after a long gap in time, but that only makes it a wait all the more worthwhile.
While continuing to work with the Fellowship Band, since 2000 Blade has also been a member of Wayne Shorter’s quartet. He has also recorded with Daniel Lanois, Joni Mitchell, Ellis Marsalis, Marianne Faithfull, Emmylou Harris, Billy Childs, Herbie Hancock, and Bob Dylan.
In 2009, Blade released Mama Rosa, his first album as a singer-songwriter, with songs dedicated to his grandmother and family. The album featured Daniel Lanois, vocalists Kelly Jones and Daryl Johnson, bassist Chris Thomas, guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel and Geoffrey Moore, pedal steel guitarists Greg Leisz and Patrick Smith, and pianists Aaron Embry and Jon Cowherd. It was co-produced by Brian Blade and Adam Samuels. The live band includes Steven Nistor on drums.
On April 30, 2016, Blade played at the White House in Washington, D.C., as part of The International Jazz Day Global Concert
“I’m always trying to tune in to what the other musicians are sending out, and then reacting to that as quickly as possible. If I’m thinking when I’m on the bandstand, I know I’m in trouble.” -Brian Blade (by Ken Micallef /Modern Drummer *)
Brian Blade’s Gear
Brian Blade plays various drumsets and sticks to the same set of cymbals.
16″ x 14″ Bass Drum / 15″ x 6.5″ Ludwig Chrome-Over-Brass Snare Drum (1920s era) / 12″ x 8″ Tom / 14″ x 14″ Floor Tom
Gretsch Drums (made in 1963):
20″ Bass Drum / 13″ Tom / 16″ Floor Tom
24″ Bass Drum / 12″ Tom / 16″ Floor Tom
Sonar Drums (made in 1971):
18″ Bass Drum
15″ Zildjian Hi-hats (1960s)
22″ Zildjian K Constantinople Light Ride
24″ Zildjian A Ride (1960s)
22″ Spizzichino Ride
Vic Firth Sticks and Mallets
Zildjian John Riley
Ludwig, Regal Tip and Cannon Brushes
Remo Heads and Aquarium Heads
1930s Gibson Cromwell Archtop