Before & After: Terence Blanchard

Here is the first B&A I did for JazzTimes, ca. 2002 with Terence Blanchard.


1) Tom Talbert
“In A Mist” (from Bix Duke Fats, Sea Breeze). Recorded in 1956. Joe Wilder, trumpet solo; Joe Soldo, flute; Danny Bank, clarinet & bass clarinet; Harold Goltzer, bassoon; Jim Buffington, french horn; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Oscar Pettiford, bass; Osie Johnson, drums; Tom Talbert, arranger, conductor.

BEFORE: Sounds like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. (listens intently) Whoooo! That’s bad, can you play that one more time? There’s some odd meter stuff in the middle of that that’s kind of interesting. My guess would be it’s Ray Nance. No? Wow. I don’t know the tune but you could tell it’s a composition or exercise. He’s composed this thing based on tonality and all the harmonies are based around that too. I’ve gone through this with my composition teacher, building compositions based around one little motif. In the midst of this there’s a little three-bar phrase right after the guitar interlude which breaks up the four-bar phrase song form thing that some guys get into. It opens the rhythm of it up. Then, after the second time the trumpet comes in, there’s some other little odd meter bars in there. It’s one of those things that I like in composition that doesn’t sound contrived, it just kind of flows through. It opens up the rhythm and it gives you a little surprise because next thing you know, you say oh, that’s not what I thought it was. This was fun to listen to.

AFTER: That’s Joe Wilder? Wow. Joe Wilder, yes indeed! I remember the first time I played with him was at the Concord Jazz Festival. It was some kind of all-star thing and I was there with Art Blakey. Joe was on the show and I remember being scared to death (laughs).
LA: He’s such a gentleman.
TB: Yeah, I know he’s a nice guy but he’s such a great musician, you know? I was real young, man, and looking around I said, there’s Joe Wilder and he was really cool. (impersonates Art Blakey) “Hey Joe, come over and meet the trumpet player. Terrence, you know Joe?” Well, I know who he is! I mean, the thing I started thinking about when I’m listening to this is those guys, they played the trumpet. They didn’t play at it. You listen to him or someone like Henry “Red” Allen, they had sounds. And that’s not an easy melody to play on the trumpet. Not easy at all. The difficulty is not in the fingering; it’s in the embouchure, because you have to make these wide leaps. It’s about your flexibility. Some young players don’t pay attention to that. It’s not just flexibility, either. It’s being able to play those wide intervals and hit the center of the note. I mean, you listen to him play and you go, wow, if it were only that easy. I have to really work at that because it’s not something that I hear naturally. Joe Wilder, isn’t that something?

2. Dave Douglas
“The Little Boy With The Sad Eyes” (from A Thousand Evenings, BMG). Recorded in 2000. Douglas, trumpet; Mark Feldman, violin; Guy Klucevsek, accordion; Greg Cohen, bass.

BEFORE: I’ve never heard this version (laughter). It’s obviously not the trumpet player’s record, that accordion’s kind of loud. (sings along with the tune) Is that Booker Little? No? Hmmm. I started laughing cause it reminded me of Ted Curson and those jam sessions at the Blue Note. I don’t know who this is. It sounds like somebody who’s searching, who’s trying to not play the prevailing style of his day. I have no clue.

AFTER: Oh, o.k. Yeah, I’m not familiar with his stuff. I heard a couple of his things. Made me think of Ted Curson. Hmm. This is on BMG? Do they still have a jazz label?
LA: There’s been talk that they’ve cut back.
TB: That’s what happens with a lot of labels. They sign a lot of guys and then they can’t market them and the guys get left in the lurch. Whose fault is that, the artist or the label? Then the artist gets dropped. It’s an unfortunate situation. You would think the label would just devote itself to a few guys. The labels try to sign some home run hitters but they’re messing with careers. We talk about that with sports but that shit is prevalent in the jazz community. Record sales is like a drug for the record companies and let’s face it, jazz doesn’t sell…for musicians, the moment is the drug.

3. Enrico Rava/Ran Blake
“There’s No You” (from Duo En Noir, Between The Lines). Recorded in 1999. Rava, trumpet; Blake, piano.

BEFORE: Is that Chet Baker? No? (listens closely to the piano solo). If I had to guess I’d say Tom Harrell. The pianist was playing some interesting stuff, some stuff out of the chord (laughs).

AFTER: Oh. (pause) Who’s Ran Blake?
LA: He’s on the faculty at the New England Conservatory.
TB: I’ve heard of Rava. It was o.k. It was cool, you could tell he listened to Miles. He’s a Miles Davis lover. No vibrato and the way he attacked some of his notes. I’m a Miles Davis fan too, so I can’t fault him for that.

4. Sun Ra
“I Could Have Danced All Night” (from Sun Sound Pleasure, Evidence). Recorded circa 1960. Sun Ra, piano, arranger; Hobart Dotson, trumpet; James Spaulding, Marshall Allen, alto sax, flutes; Pat Patrick, Charles Davis, baritone sax; Clifford Jarvis, drums.

BEFORE: What?! Get outta here! Get outta here, you’re kidding me! Is this the Lawrence Welk Orchestra? I know, I’m just joking. (laughs during the tango section) Oh my god. I don’t know who this is. This is wild, man. I’ll bet that talking to the dude who did this arrangement is like riding on a roller coaster. I have no clue, none whatsoever. I Could Have Danced All Night. It’s not my thing, you know? Not my thing at all. (laughter).

AFTER: Like I said. Whoooo! Who’s the trumpet player? Get outta here, Hobart Dotson? Yeah! Clifford Jarvis on drums. Yeah, man. It’s like, you know, it’s all over the place. It’s kind of interesting because the arrangement makes you think of the imagination of a child. It doesn’t stay in one spot too long. It keeps you moving. But the choice of the tune…(laughter).
LA: You know I’m gonna throw you some curves.
TB: That was more than a curve, man. That was a whiffle ball. There’s no chance of hittin’ that one. You should play that for Julie Andrews.

5. Hugh Ragin
“How Strange” (from Fanfare & Fiesta, Justin Time). Recorded in 2000. Ragin, James Zollar, Omar Kabir, Dontae Winslow, trumpets. Composed by Lester Bowie.

BEFORE: It’s interesting. It’s like an improvised piece. When the first two guys are taking the lead, it almost sounds like one guy overdubbed the parts cause they have a similar sound and they phrased the same, even though they’re playing different things. When you get past that and you get to the other two guys, you could tell it’s not overdubbed. The other two guys are very different, they have very different sounds. The only thing I could think of is the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, though it doesn’t sound like that group. I don’t know if it was predetermined but it sounds like there were different roles being played by the trumpeters. There were two guys playing a subordinate role and two guys taking a lead, a melodic lead. Then, when the other two guys have it, they get into an interesting little ascendant thing. Harmonically, they start playing these tensions. It’s always interesting when that happens on the bandstand cause you want to know who’s the first guy who will let go of this idea, and how far is it gonna go? There were still elements of the blues in it and some strong melodic stuff in the midst of it.

AFTER: Yeah, I met Hugh, and I know James. Huh…it’s funny. I thought it was gonna be Lester’s Brass Fantasy, but it didn’t sound like Lester. It had a certain freeness about it that was cool.

6. Maria Schneider Orchestra
“Allegresse” (from Allegresse, Enja). Recorded in 2000. Ingrid Jensen, trumpet and flugelhorn solo; Rich Perry, tenor sax solo; Tim Ries, Charles Pillow, Rick Margitza, Scott Robinson, reeds and flutes; Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Laurie Frink, Dave Ballou, trumpets and flugelhorns; Keith O’Quinn, Rock Ciccarone, Larry Farrell, George Flynn, trombones and tuba; Ben Monder, guitar; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Tony Scherr, bass; Tim Horner, drums; Jeff Ballard, percussion.

BEFORE: Is this a fade up? No? There should be a standard, man, for mastering records. Filles De Kilimanjaro, they liked that record. Thought I knew who it was till that last phrase, but Wallace doesn’t play that. Kind of reminds me of a guy I saw with Mel Lewis’ band, but I don’t know that dude’s name. Is it Lew Soloff? Lew can be a chameleon sometimes, depending on the situation he’s in. There are some interesting voicings in the arrangement and it sounds like there’s some electronic stuff in the background. Is that Scofield on guitar? There’s no keyboards listed on this? You may as well let me see, I don’t have any idea who it is.

AFTER: Ah, that’s Ingrid. Cool.
LA: What do you like about her?
TB: She’s bad! It’s a hip composition. Hip use of colors and textures. The group has a unique sound, which is cool, because all too often you get a group that size and they want to play Shiny Stockings. It’s cool to see how she’s trying to move into another area. She has some motifs that she sets up and she seems to have had an idea of telling a story instead of just having a theme, where somebody plays a solo with little standard backgrounds to make it interesting. As a composer, you sometimes try to build a piece around someone’s style and you want to give them room to do what they do. It seems there was a purpose to the arrangement and it went into a certain direction that helped propel the ideas. Ingrid’s a really good trumpet player but I don’t think too many people know who she is yet. I just met her this year at the San Francisco Jazz Festival. We played together in a tribute to Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. She was really cool, a good trumpet player. She’s playing her behind off.


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