Terence Blanchard: Requiem for Katrina
AAJ: But when I hear musicians today play older standards that did not come from that specific time period, they sometimes make me wish I was hearing the original recording. It sounds shallow somehow. But you are one of the few instrumentalists today that can take a classic tune and make it your own and I think this part is important; you make it sound convincing. What is the key to making this happen?
TB: Well the reason for that is because you respect where it came from, but you dare not try to mimic it because that would be doing it the biggest disservice. And most people usually just don't understand. Those guys were not mimicking anybody when they created it. They were just being themselves.
AAJ: Leonard Bernstein said the following, "This will be our response to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, and more devotedly than ever before." Does that resonate with you?
TB: Yes, because music and art are always a reflection of their environment. The environment comes first and the art comes afterward. We are living in very turbulent times right now and there is going to be a need for listeners to be able to find solace and peace. So at times music or art needs to help dissipate the anger and I do think we are going to see that because artists are a part of their environment. And the reason people are resonating with A Tale of God's Will is because I'm only playing what people are feeling. There is no magic. I'm only playing with the same type of outrage, empathy and compassion that the average person has seen towards this situation.
AAJ: But I would have to argue that there is some magic in being able to express that.
TB: Well, I think there is magic when you have musicians of like minds that come together. There are things that you cannot explain and cannot replicate.
AAJ: Hazrat Inayat Khan, who was from India, wrote a book titled; "The Mysticism of Sound and Music" in 1927and said that, "Someday music will be the means of expressing universal religion. Time is wanted for this, but there will be a day when music and philosophy will become the religion of humanity." Do you think music has this kind of power?
TB: Oh definitely and it is the universal language. Look at the music of Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane. Music can be a very powerful in its reaction to the environment. I mean how does a person like Louis Armstrongbecome an ambassador of peace? I am doing something that has taken me all around the world and I have been to places that my mom could have never imagined going to. When you are standing in front of an audience in Thailand or in Istanbul, Turkey, and they are having a reaction to whatever it is you are doing, it goes both ways. You can go to these places and hear indigenous music and you react to it.
AAJ: Do the events happening in the world today affect you and your own creative process?
TB: I was just at the Kennedy Center for (Kennedy Center Honors) and I was supposed to take a picture with the president (George W. Bush). I struggled with that because I didn't want to take that picture. But my wife talked to me and told me that this wasn't about the president, but about my daughters and what I had accomplished. So I said, OK, fine. But I am heavily affected by what happens in our society today. Because for me, I don't even want to be around musicians with bad vibes. So why would I want to be around someone (the president) who is sending people off to their death?
But I also believe we carry our own vibrations. So I thought, maybe I need to carry my vibrations through these halls, because it's the people, the community that is going to change the world. It's how we react to events. And what we have to remember is that, in a sense, we are allowing these leaders to do this. They are very crafty at pulling the wool over our eyes in order to make us believe things, making us scared of the ghost in the dark that doesn't even exist. But at the same time, we have the power to make change. We really do.
This interview will be included in the future book publication by Lloyd Peterson, "Wisdom Through Music". He is also the author of the book, "Music and the Creative Spirit".
Terence Blanchard, A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (Blue Note, 2007)
Terence Blanchard, Flow (Blue Note, 2005)
McCoy Tyner, Illuminations (Telarc, 2004)
Terence Blanchard, Bounce (Blue Note, 2004)
Terence Blanchard, Let's Get Lost (Sony-Legacy, 2001)
Terence Blanchard, Wandering Moon (Sony-Legacy, 2000)
Terence Blanchard, Jazz In Film (Sony-Legacy, 1999)
Terence Blanchard, The Heart Speaks (Sony-Legacy, 1996)
Terence Blanchard, In My Solitude: The Billie Holiday Songbook, (Sony, 1994)
Terence Blanchard, The Malcolm X Suite, (Sony, 1993)
Terence Blanchard, Terence Blanchard, (Sony, 1991)
Donald Harrison and Terence Blanchard, Black Pearl, (Columbia, 1988)
Donald Harrison and Terence Blanchard, Crystal Stair, (Columbia, 1987)
Donald Harrison and Terence Blanchard, Nascence, (Columbia, 1986)
Donald Harrison and Terence Blanchard, Discernment, (Columbia, 1986)
Donald Harrison and Terence Blanchard, New York Second Line, (Columbia, 1984)
This interview will appear in Lloyd Peterson's upcoming book Wisdom Through Music.