Aha Moment: Brian Blade and Joni Mitchell

Aha Moment

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brian Blade Brian Blade (Lenny Gonzalez)

Brian Blade is a drummer's drummer.  He's played with Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, and Bob Dylan. He also leads his own ensemble, The Fellowship Band.

Growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, Blade was raised on gospel, soul, and funk. But when he when he was 16 years old, a friend gave him a cassette of Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, and it changed the way he understood music.

“There was so much description emotionally in the poetry and the harmony,” Blade explains. “You know there's a question in that sound... Joni's words and music started to speak to me in a way that other music hadn't before.”

You can hear Mitchell's influence on Blade's first recording as a singer and songwriter, 2009's Mama Rosa.


Is there a work of art that’s changed the way you see the world? Tell us in a comment below — or by email.


Bonus Track: “The Dawntreader”

From Joni Mitchell’s album Travelogue (with Brian Blade on drums)


Michael Raphael

Comments [10]

Alex Winter from Los Angeles

Oh man, so many aha moments for me. I hardly know where to start.

Brian is playing a Joni Mitchell tribute show in LA @ Hollywood Bowl, so this makes sense. Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Aimee Mann, and tons more are playing too...I sometimes work with the LA Phil, so I found out about this show ages ago and have been frothing at the mouth for the show date...soon! http://www.hbowl.com/joni

Aug. 15 2011 10:45 PM
Arthur Mitchell from Costa Rica

When I first heard the great Judy Collins in the 60's record "Both Sides Now" and discovered the lyrics were by Joni, and begin to follow her career, I wanted to marry her, and she would automatically have my name.

Aug. 15 2011 08:22 PM

I first heard Brian play on a Kenny Garrett record. I thought at the time that this is the kind of guy that I like, like Tony Williams or Paul Motian. tons of flavor like he comes from a melodic thing. I wasn't too surprised to hear about his infatuation with Joni's music. I feel like I could talk all day with him. His story of the cassette tape of Hejira in the car mirrors my own experience. I remember listening to Miles Of Aisles in a Subway parking lot one night in high school with a good friend. Blew us away in an enormously profound way. One that stands with us to this day. All those records came next. We just soaked it up. The lyrical imagery coupled with Jaco's bass harmonics. The palm trees in the porch light like slick black celophane. Nothing touches what Joni has given me.

Aug. 14 2011 10:46 PM
Chris Francklyn from Burlington, VT

My appreciation of Joni goes back to the way back to "Big Yellow Taxi", through "Blue", and the Tom Scott period and of course through Hejira and "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter." (c.f. Joni in blackface.)

But what really nailed it was her work with Charles Mingus, which led to the Mingus album. Then, she assembled a truly magical touring band that included Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Randy Brecker, and others. I was lucky enough to this incarnation at the Santa Barbara County Bowl, which she filmed and recorded for a DVD and record, "Shadows and Light." Over the nearly 40 years, I've been going to shows, it stands out as one of the <10 that were truly magical. check it out. I'll never forget it, and it became my theme song for many a cross country trip.

Aug. 14 2011 04:41 PM
dmahler from New Jersey

Brian Blade's "Aha" moment reminds me of my hearing of "Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano," written by Claude Bolling. It showed me it's alright to have "classical" and jazz music in the same piece. As a result, I wrote a little piece called "The Bolling Ball Canon."
Another guy who influenced me was Don Shirley, who did wonderful classic sounding portions within a jazz piece.

Aug. 14 2011 04:20 PM
Richard from Salt Lake City

Wow! That was me too. If there was one album that changed my life it would be Hejira. It was the one I discovered Joni Mitchell with back in college. She immediately became my favorite musician, and to this day noone has topped her.

Aug. 14 2011 02:53 PM

She influenced me as well. I'm working in NYC now, but in '79-82 it was L.A., and I recall Los Angeles DJ Jim Ladd (here's a 1980 interview he did with her http://jonimitchell.com/library/view.cfm?id=859) intoning, "Joni, Joni, Joni . . ." after airing one of her songs.

Aug. 14 2011 12:53 PM
Patricia from Brooklyn, NY

Thank you Brian. I just LOVED Joni also. I still listen to all her material. Her music takes you to places that are deep and reflective.

Aug. 14 2011 11:38 AM

Thanks Brian, Thanks Joni!

Aug. 13 2011 03:18 PM
tim from Oregon


Aug. 11 2011 07:30 PM

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