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Bob Dylan

Last week the Brian Blade Fellowship Band played SF Jazz. Brian first formed the Fellowship with Loyola classmate John Cowherd in 1997, and between stints with Joshua Redman, Joni Mitchell, Kenny Garrett, Daniel Lanois, Bob Dylan, and Wayne Shorter, he has managed to keep the group together and have four Blue Note recordings to date. With Melvin Butler on soprano and tenor, Myron Walden on alto and bass clarinet (one of my favorite instruments!) and Chris Thomas on bass, the group is one of the most soulful, and creative, in jazz. Many of the tunes are written by Cowherd, whose style is an evocative blend of Evans, Corea, and Hancock. They horns often play in fourths and fifths, which give ambiguous major/minor possibilities for soloing (which I also love). They also have a very Celtic character (Coltrane reportedly practiced through Irish harp books). One is reminded that our Great American Music is a blend of African, Celtic, and European musics and folk tunes. Blade, as always, is explosive, exciting, abstract, but always groovy. Bravo!

The marvelous Mark Knopfler and his band performed Sunday October 27 at The Fox Theater in Oakland.  Touring in support of his latest recording, a double cd entitled "Privateering", the band is capable of all Knopfler demands; from Celtic hymns to delta blues to bluegrass, to barroom rock and roll.  In his own words ""I have always thought in terms of the transatlantic nature of music. My idea of heaven is somewhere where the Mississippi Delta meets the Tyne. What I wanted from the very first album with Dire Straits and songs like 'Sultans of Swing' was to write my own geography into the American music that shaped me, to identify the English, Irish and Scottish landmarks on Chuck Berry's road. I think what I'm doing now is both synthesizing those influences and separating them. The band I have is so talented, and so flexible, they give me the kind of palette to go anywhere I want, so I can jump from a hill farm in the north of England and go straight to the streets of New York City or go down into the delta for a straight-ahead blues." 

Many of the musicians have been with him for almost 20 years: Guy Fletcher on keys, Richard Bennett on guitar, Glenn Worf on bass.  His low key manner on stage belies what a prolific and brilliant career he's had, from Dire Straights to film scores (Local Hero is a gem) to his solo work and duet recording with Emmy Lou Harris.  How many guitarists can say they've produced Bob Dylan recordings, backed up Eric Clapton on tour, and had Eric as a second guitarist on tour?  While his vocal style has always borrowed heavily from early Dylan and JJ Cale, the guitar style is utterly unique - the right hand frails like a banjo player, the left hand vibrato is slow and wide, and immediately recognizable.  A style perfectly matched to a Stratocaster. 

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