Terence Blanchard makes solo playing an intriguing puzzle that leaves us grasping to understand. That’s what happened to 350 patrons of Capilano College’s Theatre for the Performing Arts in North Vancouver (Canada) on November 8.
Terence Blanchard plays with great autonomy. He is as comfortable holding a note until rapture as he is sizzling us with trumpet voicing. Curiously, this concert’s successes occurred more with Blanchard playing in solitary articulation than in a robust group framework. The most powerful of Blanchard’s notes stirred this chilly Vancouver night like the heart of someone on a brisk, beautiful walk.
Blanchard’s players are marvellously diverse musicians. Each member of the Terence Blanchard Sextet distinguished himself: Aaron Parks, a pianist whose devotion to classical playing shone; Massimo Biolcati, a bassist very much inside the musical framework; Lionel Loueke, a guitarist of such emphatic identity as to make his playing a world unto Africa; Kendrick Scott, a drummer whose dynamism pounded us and soothed us all night, and Brice Winston, a tenor saxophonist that seemed intent to wail in contrast to Blanchard’s variant musical persona.
People with technical senses of jazz most appreciated this gig. Fellow musicians ranted about interpretations and extensions in the intermission of the three-hour concert. Arresting solos supplanted dominant ensemble. Terence Blanchard’s music contains both the intensity of ambition and the beauty of blown glass at the moment of formation. Vancouverites saw more intensity than blown glass, but Blanchard is clearly skilled at both.
The Vancouver concert was steeped in moments. After an opening that scorched the audience, the band launched into a ballad that left the entire theatre breathing in relief of the world’s troubles – a perfect ending to a frenetic first set. The second set drew the Vancouver audience into the most cultured moment of the night, a wonderful vocal-guitar work from Loueke (a song written for former South African president Nelson Mandela). The integrity of the music that followed drew us into a suspension of time until, finally, the Blanchard sextet arrived at the inevitable conclusion: another sizzling solo interplay.
Blanchard’s sense of humour was in fine form on this night. From making fun of Scott’s shirt (I figure drummers look good in blue) to accusing Winston of forming a one-member jazz ensemble in Phoenix, Blanchard poked much fun. The concert concluded with a hilarious musical joke: the song that refused to end (perpetuated by each member of the group in succession).
Terence Blanchard has been on the road since late July and he concludes this road trip in Detroit. Vancouver was the only Canadian stop for Blanchard on this tour of duty.
Let us hope that Terence Blanchard and his followers see many more nights like this one.
Check the All About Jazz review of Terence Blanchard’s 2003 release, Bounce (Blue Note).