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Terence Blanchard: Flow

Mark F. Turner By

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Flow may be Terence Blanchard's most adventurous recording to date, and that's saying a lot for the prolific trumpeter, composer, and bandleader whose career has covered membership with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, producing top jazz recordings, and scoring music for many films. Though he's been highly successful, the inner fire of discovery still burns brightly on his latest release with newness and imagination.

On his second release with Blue Note, things shift into a higher gear, continuing where 2003's Bounce left off. Blanchard chooses a more modern and freer setting with a new band, including the uniquely talented West African guitarist Lionel Loueke, whose presence is now more pronounced. But the underlying production by acclaimed pianist Herbie Hancock (who also plays on two selections) is what takes the new recording to greater heights.

The elements that contribute to this atmospheric effort are Blanchard's signature horn sound, a fiery young band, and a masterful blend of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. The music is very modern and has an almost global theme, with sounds from New Orleans to West Africa and beyond—both centered and exotic. The title composition is divided into three parts, each expanding on a groove-based theme flowered with techno effects and heavy beats. "Wadagbe," written by Loueke, utilizes programming and real and sampled voices intermixed with full-bodied harmonies and solos.

Lush tones and beautiful music continue from Blanchard's pen and horn on the lovely "Benny's Tune" and the emotive "Over There," which is one of the highlights. Blanchard has always surrounded himself with talented musicians, and though there are a few changes in personnel, the band is solid. My only quibble is that Hancock only plays on two songs (yet brilliantly).

Fans who enjoyed Bounce should savor Flow even more so. It's filled with Blanchard's classic sound, yet shows he's continuing to stretch his own boundaries in new and exiting ways.

Track Listing: Flow part I; Wadagbe (intro); Wadagbe; Benny's Tune; Wandering Wonder; Flow part II; The Source; Over There; Child's Play; Flow part III; Harvesting Dance.

Personnel: Terence Blanchard: trumpet, synth programming; Brice Winston, tenor and soprano saxophone, Yamaha WX5; Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals; Aaron Parks: piano (2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 11); Herbie Hancock: piano (4, 7); Derrick Hodge: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums; Howard Drossin: synth programming (11); Gretchen Parlato: vocals (8, 9).

Title: Flow | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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