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Music and the Creative Spirit

Terence Blanchard: Requiem for Katrina

By Published: January 8, 2009

TB: Honestly, I think it comes from the world of where you have been hurt; with an understanding of what it's like to feel that level of pain and of having no avenue to express it. I won't say that that's all of it, but why is it that comedians are some of the most depressed people on the planet? Hurt can be deep and artists can be very sensitive and once you tap into that, it unlocks the door to that realm. You tap into it so it's not as if you constantly live a life of hurt, but it's a level of pain that you cannot even place it into words.

AAJ: Is it also a matter of confronting that hurt?

TB: I have played in performances where I was in tears and I didn't know why. And I think part of that is an accumulation of things that have been tucked away in a vault somewhere. And when you start to play, they can all come out at various times and in various ways that are unexpected. How many times have you heard someone talk about something and as they are talking about it, their face transforms and then you start to see their tears?

AAJ: Your love for music always comes through and your commitment is unquestionable. Where is it from?

TB: Well, I think a lot of people are committed but it's just a matter of what they are committed to. If you are committed toward being the most technical person on your instrument, then you are probably going to be that. But then the music is going to suffer. It's all about balance. My commitment comes from my father. He sold insurance and was a workaholic. He had a card table set up in the bedroom and it wasn't until I went to other people's houses that I realized that that was kind of abnormal. He also had one of those old adding machines and he would constantly be there balancing books. And then at night, he would go work at a hospital. So I thought to myself, "My dad is crazy." Years later, I'm in my studio working on a film and it hit me that I had turned into my dad because my daughter, when she was about 4 or 5, said my daddy works with wires. And that's because the only thing that she saw me doing was working in my studio on my music, which is where I was all of the time.

AAJ: Your music also always has honesty and integrity at the heart and root of its foundation, a kind of truth. How do you keep that at the core of what you do? How do you keep it tied together?

TB: The reason why there is that truth is because there is a symmetry to it that's perfect in a sense. The more honest you are with it, the more it will reflect honesty and you'll receive the benefits of that. And that's one of the reasons why artists have such a big problem with politicians. As an artist, it's hard to know you didn't play shit last night and then act like you were the grand dame of the jazz world. That eats away at you because you are constantly trying to better yourself and the only way to better yourself is to never lie to yourself.

Musicians are also very suspicious. You'll sometimes see musicians struggle with words because they don't want that karma to come back on them in a negative way because it will affect your art. We hold that in such high regard. I was working with a director who told this actor, "Look man, some of the stuff you have been doing has gotta stop because it's going to show up on the screen." That had nothing to do with what he was going to be shooting. But by being an artist, the director knew that you cannot play that character and have these other things going on. And that's how artists deal with truth and we think it's paramount. That's why we hold it so sacred and that's why you see artists out there screaming about injustices.

AAJ: The truth aspect is one of the areas that seem to separate artists from entertainers.

TB: Stop right there. That's where the word artist has been bastardized. Because when I was growing up, an artist was not a pop star. An artist was a figure of truth. An artist was a person who was trying to dig deeply into folklore. You dig? Today, anybody can become an artist and that has confused things in people's minds.

AAJ: Sometime ago while I was listening to one of your records, I thought I heard deep emotions for someone that you might be thinking about. But after awhile, I realized perhaps it was also a love for your instrument. Can you explain this relationship?

TB: There definitely is that. I definitely love the trumpet, along with Miles and Clifford Brown

Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
who have given me an appreciation and love for the trumpet. But John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Ben Webster
1909 - 1973
sax, tenor
have also given me a passion for what we have been talking about; that purity of release that you hear in music. Why is it that I can listen to Bird play "Hot House" and still be moved. It's that universal thing that happens in music from all different styles and generations.

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