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Terence Blanchard: Magnetic

Mark F. Turner By

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One of today's foremost jazz musicians and composers Terence Blanchard's achievements have soared since his formative days in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers to a trajectory of successful bands, recordings and award winning film scores such as 2007's A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (Blue Note). He's still pursuing new challenges with the upcoming June 2013 premiere of his first opera— entitled Champion, "An Opera In Jazz"— based on the life of world champion boxer Emile Alphonse Griffith.

Blanchard's ideas are still thriving in his twentieth release and return to Blue Note with Magnetic—a vibrant recording colored with the usual consummate performances, and a modernist bent that's replete with compelling themes. The ten compositions are written by various band members consisting of drummer Kendrick Scott, pianist Fabian Almazan, the unfaltering tenor saxophonist Brice Winston and the addition of 21-year-old bass prodigy Joshua Crumbly.

This indicates another clue to Blanchard's vibrancy: his unselfishness mentoring and willingness to learn from younger musicians—one time acolytes and now leaders—like drummer Eric Harland, pianist Edward Simon, and West African guitarist Lionel Loueke who guests here on two tracks and also performed on Blanchard's previous Blue Note dates: Bounce (2003) and Flow (2007). Blanchard gives his band members plenty of opportunities to shine. Almazan's "Pet Step Sitter's Theme Song" features a larger-than-life theme with Blanchard's electronically processed trumpet, virtuosic piano work, and Loueke's usual finesse touches on guitar and vocalizations. Crumbly's elegant and stirring ballad "Jacob's Ladder" and Winston's tightly wound swinger "Time To Spare" are memorable and revealing of the artist's multiple talents.

Magnetic's theme rolls out like some galactic metropolis—vast, complex and colored with futuristic techno embellishments. Yet the music is always filled with Blanchard's elongated lines and emotional urgency as found in the opening title track and the moody dreamscape in "Hallucinations." Swing is also a constant element, proven in "Don't Run" as Ravi Coltrane's soprano burns and Ron Carter's muscular bass walks true with bopping precision. Other vivid moments are found in Scott's brilliant "No Borders Just Horizons" where the music moves with feverish intensity and Almazan's superb acoustic/electronic-enhanced solo track "Comet."

These individual threads are intricately woven together by Blanchard's masterful leadership, musicianship, and openness. It's a fine return to Blue Note and another exceptional release in Blanchard's extensive and continuing discography.

Track Listing: Magnetic; Jacob’s Ladder; Don’t Run; Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song; Hallucinations; No Borders Just Horizons; Comet; Central Focus; Another Step; Time To Spare.

Personnel: Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Fabian Almazan: piano; Kendrick Scott: drums; Brice Winston: tenor saxophone (1, 2, 5, 6, 10); Joshua Crumbly: bass (2, 4-6, 8-10) Ron Carter: bass (1, 3); Ravi Coltrane: soprano saxophone (3), tenor saxophone (4); Lionel Loueke: guitar (4, 5, 9).

Title: Magnetic | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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