Brian Blade Mama Rosa

Brian Blade is rightfully recognized as one of the very best drummers in contemporary music. One of the most versatile too, given that he's worked extensively with jazz greats Wayne Shorter and Joshua Redman, as well as Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois and Bob Dylan. On this sweetly soulful album, the closest reference point would be Lanois, who plays on six tracks and whose subtle sonic approach has clearly influenced Blade (on the album credits Blade says, "without Daniel Lanois this recording could not have been made"). Other notable musicians featured include pedal guitar ace Greg Leisz and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Interestingly enough, over half the tracks are devoid of drums, with Blade concentrating more on his guitar and piano playing, and vocals. They make the lack the virtuosity of his drumming but they are effective and subtle accompaniments to his gentle and oft-spiritually themed songs. It's unfortunate he recycles the greeting card banality of "give me serenity to accept the things I cannot change" on "At The Centerline" but other lyrics are more effective. A haunting instrumental, "Struggling With That," is a highlight, while "All Gospel Radio" has an Eno-esque ambience, suggesting a future all-instrumental Blade album would be welcomed. (Verve)