After Wednesday’s JJA Jazz Awards event I club-hopped with award winner Nate Chinen, first to the new Poisson Rouge — kind of a fussy, disorganized space on first impression — for Charlie Haden’s Quartet West. I’m not a keen follower of the band, but Ernie Watts on tenor really grabbed me by the lapels. Haden’s lines on rhythm changes (“Passport”) were unbelievably loose and roundabout, yet solid as steel.
Having crisscrossed the ocean last week and spent time in a foreign land, I couldn’t have been happier to return to the Village Vanguard and let the Brian Blade Fellowship conquer my senses. I’m feeling the need to amplify my praise for this group following my Jazz Times review of Season of Changes, the new Verve disc.
Until now I failed to grasp the genius of the final three minutes of “Return of the Prodigal Son,” by Fellowship pianist Jon Cowherd. Something happened when the group reached this section at the gig. A perfect melody, a paradisiacal set of chords in flowing waltz time, an accumulation of sound and texture as the theme grew out of Cowherd’s piano intro — it was everything music should be, and the beauty of it was almost hard to stand. Besides, everyone in the group improvised like monsters and gave two hundred percent, including Blade, who dissected the beat continuously, playing wholly within the moment.
A band of the year nomination for BBF, please. And a long overdue nod to Jon Cowherd as a top composer.