Terence Blanchard Quintet
2018 USA Fellow and five-time Grammy-winning trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard has been a consistent artistic force for making powerful musical statements concerning painful American tragedies – past and present.
From his expansive work composing the scores for Spike Lee films ranging from the documentary When the Levees Broke, about Blanchard’s hometown of New Orleans during the devastation from Hurricane Katrina to the epic Malcolm X; Inside Man starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster; 25th Hour (Golden Globe Nominee) starring Edward Norton and Philip Seymour Hoffman to the timely and latest Lee film, BlacKkKlansman, starring John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Topher Grace, Blanchard has interwoven melodies that created strong backdrops to Lee’s stories.
With his current quintet E-Collective, featured on the score to BlacKkKlansman with a 75-piece orchestra, Blanchard delivers “a soaring, seething, luxuriant score,” comments the New York Times. In Vice Magazine, Blanchard elaborates, “In BlacKkKlansman it all became real to me. You feel the level of intolerance that exists for people who ignore other people’s pain. Musically, I can’t ignore that. I can’t add to that intolerance. Instead I have to help people heal from it.”
With his newest Blue Note jazz album, Live, which he is currently touring with his band, Blanchard addresses the staggering cyclical epidemic of gun violence in this country. He delivers seven powerful songs recorded live in concert that both reflect the bitter frustration of the conscious masses while also providing a balm of emotional healing. With a title that carries a pointed double meaning, the album is an impassioned continuation of the band’s Grammy®-nominated 2015 studio recording, Breathless.
The music of Live was symbolically culled from concerts performed at venues in three communities that have experience escalating conflicts between law enforcement and African American citizens: Minneapolis (near where Philando Castile was pulled over and shot by a cop on July 6, 2016); Cleveland (near where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by police on November 22, 2014); and Dallas (near where police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patricio Zamarripa were assassinated while on duty covering a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest on July 7-8, 2016). The E-Collective’s Live project condemns gun violence of all manner whether against profiled citizens of color or targeted members of law enforcement.
Experimental, electric and exotic, E-Collective consists of Terence Blanchard on trumpet, Charles Altura on guitar, Fabian Almazan on piano and synthesizers, Oscar Seaton on drums, and new addition David “DJ” Ginyard on bass. “This band is an example of the revolution that is taking place,” Blanchard explains. “When you look at the conglomeration of us all from different walks of life, look at how we come together and create something harmonious. We are what the promise of America is supposed to be.”
If those few projects haven’t kept Blanchard busy enough, simultaneously he has just put the finishing touches on a commission by Carnegie Hall for the Sphinx Orchestra and the New World Symphony titled, Dance for a New Day, which will premiere in October 2018. In November, we will see another Blanchard premiere of a piece funded by the Joyce Foundation in conjunction with Tri-City Jazz Foundation titled, Democracy Revisited: The Voting Rights Act.
Blanchard is currently working on his second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, based on the memoir of New York Times writer and political pundit, Charles Blow, with a libretto by film director Kasi Lemmons, a longtime friend and collaborator of Blanchard’s from their early days together of working on Eve’s Bayou. Fire Shut Up in My Bones will premiere in 2019 at Opera Theatre St. Louis, which also premiered Blanchard’s first lauded opera, Champion, a semi-biographical look at gay welterweight champion, Emile Griffith’s life.
Regarding his consistent attachment to artistic works of conscience, Blanchard confesses, “You get to a certain age when you ask, ‘Who’s going to stand up and speak out for us?’ Then you look around and realize that the James Baldwins, Muhammad Alis, and Dr. Kings are no longer here...and begin to understand that it falls on you. I’m not trying to say I’m here to try to correct the whole thing, I’m just trying to speak the truth.” In that regard, he cites unimpeachable inspirations. “Max Roach with his ‘Freedom Now Suite,’ John Coltrane playing ‘Alabama,’ even Louis Armstrong talking about what was going on with his people any time he was interviewed. Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter who live by their Buddhist philosophy and try to expand the conscience of their communities. I’m standing on all of their shoulders. How dare I come through this life having had the blessing of meeting those men and not take away any of that? Like anybody else, I’d like to play feel-good party music but sometimes my music is about the reality of where we are.”