Terence Blanchard

From 1939 to 1975, Blue Note Records signed or recorded just about every notable jazz trumpet-player: Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Don Cherry, Blue Mitchell, and others. It’s fitting that the label is now enjoying an artistic and commercial renaissance, and it’s no mere coincidence that its current roster includes two of the most celebrated, influential and gifted trumpeter-composers to walk the planet since those halcyon days: Wynton Marsalis and Terence Blanchard.

Blanchard was born in New Orleans on March 13, 1962. Picking up the trumpet in elementary school, he was also coached at home by his opera-singing father. In high school, the young Blanchard came under the tutelage of Ellis Marsalis. He went on to attend Rutger’s University on a music scholarship. One of his professors was so impressed by his talent that he brokered him a touring gig with Lionel Hampton’s band.

In 1983 Wynton Marsalis recommended his homeboy as his replacement in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Part of the Blakey legend was his ability to foster performances and individual personalities from the young malleable talents he brought into his fold. Blakey utilized and nurtured the improvisation and compositional ideas of his band members to solidify his own unique artistic vision. That legacy of the working band as jazz workshop is at the essence of the genre; Blanchard remains one of the few on the scene today who fully embrace that dynamic.

Two years later Blanchard and fellow Messenger Donald Harrison split to form their own quintet. In 1990 Blanchard departed to pursue a solo career. During his tenure at Columbia, his soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film Mo’ Better Blues and The Heart Speaks were nominated for Grammy Awards. Signed to the Sony Classical label in 1999, Blanchard gained acclaim as a bandleader and scorer of movie and television soundtracks (including the Grammy-nominated Wandering Moon and a Golden Globe nomination for his score to Lee’s 25th Hour).

Blanchard’s critically acclaimed Blue Note–debut, Bounce, was soon followed by his second label release, Flow, heralding nothing less than the brilliant second act of Blanchard’s extraordinary career. Flow is Blanchard’s rambunctiously heated answer to those unenlightened few who doubted that this chill master of the urbane film score (Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X, Barbershop) could get down. It not only showcases his prodigious instrumental and composing skills, but it reveals him to be both a shrewd judge of young talent and a bandleader of Milesian dimension and magnitude.

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Jessye Norman