Good fellows

By JON GARELICK  |  October 20, 2008

“I think we liked so many different kinds of music,” Cowherd (on the phone from his home in Brooklyn) says of his early compatibility with Blade. “I remember we used to talk about how compartmentalized music was and even jazz was really purist sometimes. And we were like, well, why can’t we take everything that we like — not in any fabricated kind of way — and just let everything influence us.” They were also influenced by the New Orleans scene, and the openness of bands like Astral Project. Blade tended to write using a guitar; that accounts for some of the band’s folkier chords. Cowherd — a former French-horn player who turned to classical piano — wrote at the keyboard. “I think Brian from the beginning had a good sense of orchestration for this band in his head when he’d sit down to write something. He would write something, bring it in, and I remember being knocked out that every little part made sense. And my tunes were more like, ‘Okay, they sound really good at the piano, how is it going to fit into the band?’ ”

Cowherd at first wrote very short tunes, fragments, really, that he would later assemble like patchwork into longer compositions. “A lot of times, I’ll write things from the back to the front. I’ll come up with an idea and be like, ‘This sound like the end of something.’ ” It’s a tendency inspired, he says, by the classical repertoire he’s studied as a pianist. And of course, when he has to, as on his “Return of the Prodigal Son,” he can just stack those fourths like McCoy Tyner and let Butler’s tenor burn on top, Coltrane-style, with a thrashing Blade alongside. This outfit does play driving 4/4 swing for its two saxophonists, even if that’s not a priority.

“The Fellowship Band is post- so many things that we love,” Blade says. “John Coltrane’s music, Duke Ellington’s music, Joni Mitchell’s music. And we have a collective voice. I always feel that, with the Fellowship band, everyone seems to submit themselves to the big picture.”

BRIAN BLADE & THE FELLOWSHIP BAND | Scullers, 400 Soldiers Field Rd, Boston | November 6: 8 + 10 pm | $24 | 617.562.4111 or www.scullersjazz.com

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