NPR | PATRICK JARENWATTANANON • We had hoped to get the great drummer Brian Blade to give us a little private exhibition after his set at the Newport Jazz Festival this year. The weather, however, was proving much less generous than he and his band were. Early that morning, a steady all-day rain settled in over coastal Rhode Island, making it difficult to transport dry instruments anywhere. On top of that, a last-minute change to travel plans meant that Blade needed to get out of town quickly — to an airport over four hours away.
But he and the Fellowship Band — the group of guys Blade has been making music with for the better part of two decades or more — were game to figure out something for us. So we herded them into the shelter of a quiet tunnel in Fort Adams State Park. Myron Walden and Melvin Butler put their horns together, and pianist Jon Cowherd realized he could use the synthesizer app on his iPad. The three of them played for us one of Cowherd's many serene melodies — this one called "Landmarks," the title track of their new album.
One of the great things about Blade's work with the Fellowship Band is that it's not all about the drummer and his proven technical wizardry. It's also about beautiful harmonies, slow-developing pieces, earnest entreaty to make you feel something other than distanced admiration. And though Blade himself doesn't play, this brief moment of zen under heavy skies — this pretty li'l chorale for horns and iPad app — it also gets at why this band is special.
Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Patrick Jarenwattananon; Event Manager: Saidah Blount; Videographers: Mito Habe-Evans, Colin Marshall, Nick Michael; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Editor: Colin Marshall; Special Thanks: Newport Jazz Festival, Mark and Rachel Dibner of the Argus Fund, The Wyncote Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Josh Jackson of WBGO; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann