Terence Blanchard Quintet At Memorial Hall
There is some singular thing with the trumpet. It is the Matador’s instrument and Terence Blanchard’s Quintet’s performance tonight at UNC’s Memorial Hall was a hard bop bullfight. Hard Bop is a particular kind of jazz. At times atonal, thick, leaving tough exposed edges, Hard Bop was a reaction to the cool jazz favored on the west coast by David Brubeck and others. Hard bop jazz is a kaleidoscope of conflict and resolution. Its primary practitioner, Miles Davis, was a master at the jazz bullfight that is hard bop jazz (read Seeing Miles Davis post).
Forty years after Miles introduced Hard Bop at the Newport Jazz Festival (1954) with his masterful Workin’ Terence Blanchard lifted his magical Monette horn to slay hard bop’s atonal bull. Terence Blanchard’s debt to Miles is clear more in his stage presence than sound. His sound is rounder than Miles more influenced by childhood friend Wynton Marsalis and his Blanchard's Orleans roots.
It is no mistake Blanchard, like Wynton, plays a Monette horn. This horn’s tonal range is hard to describe. At times the horn sounds electronically muted. Other times the sound is small and squeaky then round, full and deep. This trumpet costs $30,000, but that is not why it isn’t for the faint of heart. With greater range comes possibility of trap doors and dead ends. Without sufficient skill tonal range and a $30,000 horn is wasted and dangerous.
Terence Blanchard’s tight quintet doesn’t lack for tonal range (lol). Blanchard’s leadership was interesting. He and his tenor saxophonist would step back allowing piano, stand up bass and drums to play extended riffs. Stepping up together like dramatic Matadors Blanchard’s horn equally matched by tenor saxophone created dramatic Mo Better moments. Blanchard’s frequent collaborations with Spike Lee and his playing with the Branford Marsalis quartet on Mo Better Blues, perhaps the best movie about being a jazz musician, leaves clear brush strokes. Tonight’s concert at UNC was harder and rougher than Blanchard’s horn and music as part of Branford Marsalis’ quartet in Mo Better Blues.
The Terance Blanchard Quintet wears bullfighter “suit of lights” easily moving toward the dangerous bull's horns fighting in Spanish style. Those atonal horns are the "space in between the notes" Dr. Cornel West discussed in spoken word riffs cleverly included usually when a piece started. Dr. West's a jazzman in the world of ideas quote was a favorite:
"I consider myself a jazz man in the world of ideas, a blues man in the life of the mind. Because my models were jazz musicians and blues men, who have to find their voices, not just be echoes. Who had to have a vision, not just a stare. And in the end, have to be true to themselves. Because all imitation is suicide. All emulation is a sign of an adolescent mind. Now all of us imitate. All of us emulate. But those who love us, like Monk loved Coltrane? You don't need to imitate Johnny Hodges. Go ahead and find your voice brother." - Dr. Cornel West.Tonight, thanks to a blazing performance by a jazz matador, we were all jazzmen in the world of ideas, blues men in the life of the mind and matadors fighting hard bop bulls.