Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2010: Sonny Rollins

Terence Blanchard: Firm Roots

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Born in New Orleans, Terence Blanchard began playing piano at the age of 5 and picked up the trumpet in elementary school. His father, a professional opera singer, told him, “If you’re going to do this music thing, you’re going to do it right and take some lessons.” He studied with Ellis Marsalis and Roger Dickerson at the New Orleans Center of Creative Arts, where Wynton was his peer. When he went on to Rutgers University, one of his professors was so impressed, he set Blanchard up in Lionel Hampton’s band.

In the 1980s Blanchard spent two years in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, then worked with Donald Harrison before forming his own quintet. In 1991, he released his self-titled solo debut. Over the years, he has released more than a dozen recordings. He has twice won France’s coveted Grand Prix du Disque, for New York Second Line in 1984, and in 2009 for Choices. Along with several nominations, he also claims several Grammy Awards, including for his powerful recording, A Tale of God’s Will (Requiem for Katrina).

Blanchard has become well known as a film score composer through his work with director, Spike Lee. Starting out as a session player in Lee’s second film, he progressed to arranging and, with Jungle Fever, produced his first complete film score. To date, he has composed for over 40 films and documentaries, most recently The Princess and the Frog and Grammy-nominated Cadillac Records.

Though he has come to be thought of as one of the most prolific jazz composers for film in the present day, Terence Blanchard will always consider himself a jazz musician first and foremost. “Nothing can beat being a jazz musician, playing a club, playing a concert. When I stood next to Sonny Rollins at Carnegie Hall and listened to him play, that was it for me.”

His 2009 album, Choices, features his quintet, along with special guests including Cornel West on spoken word vocals. The recording reflects Blanchard’s philosophy. As he says, “Life is all about expansion and evolution. We make choices every day, none of which are right or wrong. They are simply choices that allow us to explore the variety of what’s before us.”

Blanchard will be joined by the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra for a concert celebrating jazz in film. Given his impressive talent and his love for cinematic writing, this show is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!

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