Terence Blanchard's newest album entitled Magnetic boasts contributions from members of his quintet, saxophonist Brice Winston, pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Joshua Crumbly with drummer Ravi Coltrane and guitarist Lionel Loueke.
"I've always believed that in life, what you keep on your mind is what you draw to yourself." This is how Blanchard explains the title of his 20th album, magnetic. The inspiration stems from Blanchard's personal faith as he has turned in recent years to Buddhism after meditating with good friend and colleague Herbie Hancock. The idea of a spiritual magnetism "is a basic concept in any type of religion," says Terence.
Magnetic marks Blanchard's return to Blue Note Records, which last released A Tale of God's Will, his triumphant 2007 requiem for his home city, New Orleans, in the wake of the devastations wrought by Hurricane Katrina. That harrowingly emotional song cycle is just one of many large-scale projects Blanchard has undertaken in recent years. Since first writing music for Spike Lee's 1990 jazz-set movie Mo' Better Blues, Blanchard has become a renowned film composer with over 50 scores to his credit, most recently the WWII drama Red Tails for producer George Lucas.
Blanchard expands his musical palette on Magnetic through the use of electronics, creating an overdriven, electric guitar-like sound for his horn during "Pet Step Sitter's Theme Song" or brewing the mind-altering atmospherics of "Hallucinations."
The latter tune, though titled by Blanchard's 14-year-old daughter, also touches on the lifelong spiritual search evoked by the album-opening title track and "Central Focus," which was originally recorded twenty years ago on Blanchard's album Simply Stated. "When chanting for meditation," he says, "you can have those moments of reflection that will bring new ideas to you. Some people may no call them hallucinations, but I think they're all related in some fashion."
Not every tune comes from such profound motives. The hard-bopping "Don't Run" was written solely with the intention of allowing the band to joust with Ravi Coltrane's soprano and Ron Carter's mighty bass runs. The title was inspired by a taunt from Carter to Blanchard, asking only half-jokingly when the trumpeter would call on the legendary bassist's services. "Stop running from me, man" Blanchard recalls him saying, and when Carter speaks, you listen.
Coltrane's contributions, which also include a taut, powerhouse turn on tenor for "Pet Step Sitter's Theme Song," came about simply because Blanchard was blown away by the saxophonist's latest album, Spirit Fiction. "Ravi has developed a style and a sound that's very unique," Blanchard explains. "It's an incredible feat given who his father was and what instrument his father played. But his being on my record has nothing to do with any of that; his being on my record is simply due to the fact that I love the way he plays."
The same goes for Benin-born Lionel Loueke, who first came to prominence through Blanchard's quintet before becoming widely renowned as one of the most innovative guitarists and vocalists in modern jazz. "He's a very unique talent," Blanchard says. "Lionel always brings a certain spirit and energy to any project that he's a part of."
Blanchard also readily sings the praises of his core group, which has been evolving over two years together to reach the deeply attuned point at which Magnetic finds them. "I've always appreciated the artistry of Brice and Kendrick, "he says of the band's two veterans. "They've very seriously committed to developing their own unique styles of playing,"
Of newcomer Crumbly, he says "Josh is a young guy who's very talented and brings a lot to the group." And of Almazan, he continues, "Fabian has been growing by leaps and bounds. His harmonic knowledge has taken the band in interesting directions and he colors things in ways which I think are very fresh and forward-thinking."
Each member of the group provides their own contributions to the album: Crumbly, the lovely and delicate "Jacob's Ladder:" Scott, the forceful, rhythmically intense "No Borders Just Horizons;" Winston, the lithe and intricate "Time To Spare;" and Almazan an "emotional roller coaster" dedicated to his mother, "Pet Step Sitters Theme Song," which is later reprised as "Another Step."
Accompanying the release of Magnetic, Blanchard's tour will feature Terence, Brice Winston on sax, Fabian Almazan on piano, Robert Hurst III on bass, Jeff 'Tain" watts on drums, and Lionel Loueke on guitar and will take-in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Denver, Boston, Washington, DC, London, Paris, the Czech Republic, Tokyo, Johannesburg and the Choro Festival in Brazil. will be embarking on a summer tour with an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in August. Upcoming dates include an engagement at the Opera Theater in St. Louis for "Opera in Jazz" which is based on a true story of boxing champion Emile Griffith.
Upcoming performance dates are as follows:
June 12 - New York, NY @ Jazz Standard
June 15 - St. Louis, MO @ Whitaker Music Festival
June 19 - St. Louis, MO @ World Premiere of Champion Opera
June 21 - St. Louis, MO @ World Premiere of Champion Opera
June 25 - St. Louis, MO @ World Premiere of Champion Opera
June 27 - St. Louis, MO @ World Premiere of Champion Opera
June 30 - St. Louis, MO @ World Premiere of Champion Opera
August 2 - Boston, MA @ Scullers Jazz Club
August 3 - Newport, RI @ Newport Jazz Festival
August 8 - Washington, DC @ Blues Alley
August 9 - Washington, DC @ Blues Alley
August 10 - Washington, DC @ Blues Alley
August 11- Washington, DC @ Blues Alley