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Emerging from the hallowed halls of a New Orleans jazz education, trumpeter, arranger, and film score composer Terence Blanchard shows proper reverence for the musical giants of his native city’s past. Still, Blanchard’s respect for tradition doesn’t keep him from blowing with refreshing originality toward the sound of the future. This top-notch graduate from the "University of Art Blakey" joins Billy Taylor’s Trio and proves he’s earned a promotion from promising young lion to the ranks of the established artists.
Blanchard describes growing up in New Orleans, surrounded by the influence of great musicians and various styles of music. Blanchard’s first instrument was the piano, but when a local trumpeter demonstrated New Orleans style jazz at his elementary school, Blanchard decided right then to take up the trumpet. At Dr. Taylor’s request, Blanchard demonstrates that "certain kind of sound and rhythm" characteristic of the New Orleans tradition with his rendition of Louis Armstrong’s "West End Blues."
Joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers as musical director, Blanchard explains, had an enormous impact on his evolution as a musician. Blanchard relays anecdotes describing Blakey’s gentle, effective method of guiding musicians into maturity. In reference to an audience question regarding the difficulty of "finding his own sound," Blanchard gets another opportunity to emphasize the importance of Blakey as a mentor. According to Blanchard, Blakey’s first piece of advice was to "forget Dizzy, forget Miles…he named all of my heroes and he said, forget all of them…you are you." With Blakey’s encouragement, Blanchard mustered the courage to "try to find [his] own voice."
Another audience question addresses Blanchard’s recent collaboration with Brazilian singer/songwriter Ivan Lins on his album, "The Heart Speaks," an experience that Blanchard claims "changed [his] life." From Lins, Blanchard learned that music is a passionate "way of life," not merely a matter of technical mastery. Blanchard joins Dr. Taylor’s Trio and renders a stirring take on Lin’s lovely ballad, "Nocturna."
Blanchard’s foray into Brazilian music is just one of the many exciting directions in which his music is moving. In recent years, Blanchard has gained increasing renown as a composer, commissioned by film director Spike Lee to write several of his scores. If his performance with Dr. Taylor is any indication, we can look forward to hearing more from this artist – Blanchard will be among the musical vanguard, determining the evolution of jazz music in the century to come.