Although he’s spent much of the past 15 years scoring films for Spike Lee and others, trumpeter Terence Blanchard certainly hasn’t forgotten about jazz, as his impressive Blue Note debut makes clear. Bounce finds the former Jazz Messenger having grown well past his early days as part of the “young lions” phenomenon of the ‘80s into a mature, individual artist exploring a wide palette of jazz colors.
Like the best jazz artists working today, Blanchard has an awareness of the music’s past and present and openness to influences outside the jazz world (at least, that is, to those who would offer a narrow definition of all that jazz encompasses). Along with a band of talented young stars in the making (Aaron Parks on piano, Brandon Owens on bass, Eric Harland on drums, Lionel Louke on guitar and Brice Winston on saxophone), Blanchard deftly blends neo bebop and Latin grooves, New Orleans funk and African rhythms into a cohesive, expressive, contemporary whole.
Among Blanchard’s impressive original compositions, his “Azania” digs deep into Afro-Caribbean traditions, including a wordless chant from Louke, while the title tune (which is paired with former partner Donald Harrison’s “Let’s Go Off”) is flavored with the down-home gumbo of his (and most of the band’s) Crescent City home. Blanchard even delves into free form funk, with the addition of Robert Glasper on Fender Rhodes, on the fiery original “Fred Brown” and on an edgy reworking of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.”
A generous leader and mentor, Blanchard gives plenty of room for band members to express themselves with extended solos, and in the case of Parks, Harland and Owens, with notable originals of their own. While never hogging the spotlight, Blanchard is an adroit soloist himself, always in full command of his instrument whether playing fast and furious runs or moody ballads. With Bounce, Blanchard proves himself a jazz artist very much of the moment and a jazz man for all seasons.