Mama Rosa by Brian Blade

What kind of "drum album" would you expect to get from a drummer who has made a career out of playing drums for everyone from Bob Dylan, Joshua Redman, Joni Mitchell and Iron & Wine? The answer is not a drum album at all! In fact, if there's one thing that drummer Brian Blade's percussion resume tells you, it's why such songwriters chose to work with him.  It's because, like them, he's a songwriter with a gift for writing and singing rich, incandescent songs.  And on 2009's Mama Rosa, Brian Blade—who plays guitar, bass and piano—performs his own original music with a moving delicacy. 

I'm not holding Brian Blade to a different standard because his "melodicism" belies his "rhythm-only" past.  Mama Rosasimply drifts on one beautiful, ethereal song after the next.  It's essentially folk/singer/songwriter music.  But there is a jazz-element worth mentioning and that is Blade's brilliant jazz chord progressions, which are strange and unpredictable.   Never once do his compositions feel remotely derivative.  In this way, his music is most analagous to Joni Mitchell and Daniel Lanois—the latter plays guitar and multiple other instruments throughout the record.  

I'd be lying if I suggested that Brian Blade is a hitmaker.  His music sort of exists in a land of lazy rivers and empty beaches.  It doesn't make you want to sing—it makes you want to close your eyes.

No, there's no "Help Me" "California" or "Free Man In Paris" on Mama Rosa.  And there are a couple throwaway tracks, which tarnish Rosa's overall effectiveness.  The dull and ordinary six minute ballad "All That Was Yesterday" is about three minutes too long.  The same goes with "Her Song," which is also quite unmemorable.  But Blade takes many risks, as evidenced by the two slow, ambient tracks which close his album.  These instrumentals fit perfectly and may be evidence that Mama Rosa was a fully-realized project.  

Mama Rosa may be too mellow and esoteric for some, but many will find Brian Blade's sensitivity and musicality to be very beautiful.  I definitely do.

Mama Rosa by Brian Blade