Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band marks its 20th anniversary with the release of their sublime fifth album, Body and Shadow, a succinct 9-track meditation on lightness/darkness that arrives like a balm for the soul, ebbing and flowing with grace, subtlety and no shortness of beauty. The Fellowship released their eponymous debut in 1998, but the bond among the musicians goes back even further. Blade, the band's namesake and drummer, first met pianist Jon Cowherd in 1988 while attending Loyola University in New Orleans, and they met bassist Chris Thomas in the Crescent City a year later. With Myron Walden (alto saxophone & bass clarinet) and Melvin Butler (tenor saxophone), the Fellowship Band's sturdy unified bond ("we think of the band as a collective instrument," Cowherd says) has evolved with every album, and Body and Shadow, which also features Denver-based guitarist Dave Devine, is an extension of that evolution.
Blade and Cowherd wrote, arranged and produced the songs for Body and Shadow, which was recorded at the historic Columbus Theatre in Providence, RI. The experience reminded Blade of recording the band's debut with producer Daniel Lanois at the Teatro, a former movie theater in Oxnard, California. "It is always great to be in the moment and in process with the band," says Blade. "We come in with all our grand plans and then there's this yielding to, ‘Okay, here's what's actually being captured.' Maybe not what I thought but another feeling, another energy, which is unpredictable. There's joy in the whole mystery of what we are hoping to create. You step into the process to see what you're made of, individually and together. Since we've shared so much time together, that trust and the sort of inherent knowing of what's needed for each other kicks in pretty quick."
"I think we have a lot of hope for the world and ourselves and the desire to create something which will move or touch people," Cowherd adds. "There's a spiritual background to the band. We come from a foundation of playing music that is inspirational and I think we all want it to be intellectually interesting, too."