One of the summer’s highlights was the Joni Mitchell tribute concert at Massey Hall. While I’m not exactly a Joni fan, I certainly respect the profound impact she’s had on a couple of generations of great musicians. It was definitely exciting to see her live and to witness the reaction of the 2,700 people who had come with the hope that she’d sing a song or two.
The line-up was pretty fantastic – Glen Hansard, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding, Kathleen Edwards, Rufus, Cold Specks, and a kick-ass band. For me, though, the stand-out artist of the night was Brian Blade.
I’ve heard Brian on recordings, but this was my first opportunity to see him live. It was a revelation – he struck me less as a drummer and more as a musician who chooses to express himself on the drums, if that makes any sense. His playing is grounded, sensitive, and authoritative. It also looks like he takes great joy in playing, which seems to be infectious.
I’ve picked up a couple of recordings since then, and I hope to do some more listening to his earlier stuff over the rest of the summer. I really love this video of him and the Fellowship Band performing Stoner Hill earlier this year at the Chicago Music Exchange. Terrific song, and I can’t think of a player who has better sounding cymbals.