Last April 2022 Brian Blade performed at Koerner Hall in Toronto with Joshua Redman's Mood Swings band featuring Gerald Clayton on piano (filling in for Brad Mehldau) and Christian McBride on bass. Former Toronto and now St. John's, Newfoundland resident and drummer Mark Micklethwaite was in attendance and offered a very thoughtful and articulate post-concert summary via Facebook. He was also kind enough to allow me to share his thoughts here below.
Observations of Brian Blade by Mark Micklethwaite (April 2022)
1. Play for the Room.
2. Intensity vs Volume.
3. Explore Every Sound.
He also had a couple of thin towels that he used on the snare (snares on and off) and floor tom, with varying degrees of muffling. He'd put them on and take them off in the same song, as needed. Sometimes he'd move it to his leg for a while and then put if back on later.
His touch is unparalleled. He can bash a cymbal and hold the stick against it so it doesn't fully resonate, so you get the crash but not an endless wash.
5. Feathering the Bass Drum.
6. Know the Music.
Joshua has always been very active as a listener onstage, even when he's standing side stage not playing. He's listening, tapping his foot, reacting to the music, encouraging. Brian cued the end of one drum solo VERY LATE and the only reason Josh caught it was because he was listening and watching and jumped in at the last second with the head out.
8. Process not Perfection.
From the full view of his every move, I was amazed at how many times he "missed"; how he'd go for a fill up the toms (or down) and miss the crash at the end or flub somehow. And after a brief pause (or not) he'd just keep going. It was as if the trying and missing was part of the point; going beyond what you know, pushing ahead beyond what you can already play. And even when he'd miss, you'd be right there with him, because the intensity and the intent is all right there. One time near the end he almost fell off the stool going for something and I just about leapt out of my seat to try and catch him. Such intensity. So in the moment.
10. On the drum rider, always request a comfortable seat!
As an educator, Mark has developed innovative community and educational programming for students of all ages and facilitated relationships with schools and community groups to present many engaging programs. He has taught classes, workshops, and ensembles in various settings including the Halton, Peel, Durham, and Toronto school boards, Queens College, University of Toronto, York University, and University of Waterloo. Mark helped develop the jazz appreciation curriculum at JAZZ.FM91 and taught 6-week interactive courses to over 300 students.
A successful freelance drummer for over twenty years, Mark has performed at clubs, concert halls, and festivals throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle East. He has performed with musicians such as Guido Basso, Phil Dwyer, Joel Frahm, Dave Frishberg, Molly Johnson, Christian McBride, Donny McCaslin, Mike Murley, Ted Quinlan, Kevin Turcotte, the Turtle Island String Quartet and Kenny Wheeler. He completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music at York University and his Masters of Music at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.