Album Review – Blanchard’s “Magnetic” Attracts Positive Attention

Magnetic coverIt has been thirty years since Terence Blanchard first hit the jazz scene as Wynton Marsalis’ handpicked replacement in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and then lead a memorable “young lions” quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison. Since then, Mr. Blanchard has scored over 40 films, including all of Spike Lee’s since Mo’ Better Blues; been nominated for eleven Grammys® (and won five); served as artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz; been a first call sideman and led his own group that has recorded twenty albums. In addition, Mr. Blanchard’s first “Opera in Jazz”, Champion, about the life of the late boxer Emile Griffith, recently premiered in St. Louis.  Suffice to say that Terence Blanchard has been quite busy. His twentieth album also marks his return to Blue Note Records for which he last recorded 2007’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) for which he won the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy.

His new album, titled Magnetic, features ten original compositions, all by Mr. Blanchard or the members of his latest quintet; Brice Winston on saxophone, Fabian Almazan on piano, Kendrick Scott on drums and 21-year-old newcomer Joshua Crumbly on bass. In addition, there are guest appearances by bass legend Ron Carter, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (son of a legend) and guitarist Lionel Loueke (likely to be a legend). Blanchard has been experimenting with a number of styles, from classical to Latin to hip-hop on some of his recent recordings. Though those experiments were always interesting and often successful, it’s great to find him on Magnetic, back at his base in what is essentially a first-rate post-bop blowing session.

The title track kicks things off. It’s a knotty mid-tempo piece, peppered with staccato horn blasts and various electronics including Blanchard’s use electronics which at times give his trumpet a guitar like sound. “Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song” has a mellow funk rhythm over which the group lays down some exploratory solos with Ravi Coltrane’s tenor runs being the highlight, Blanchard’s electronic trumpet sounding like a keyboard and Loueke’s guitar comping in the background. Lionel’s vocalizing and chord runs are subtle at first, then grow in prominence to give the piece a shift in direction. Drummer Scott contributed the hard-driving “No Borders, Just Horizons”, which opens with a powerful two-minute drum solo and then moves surprisingly into a Latin swing over which Blanchard blows one of his best solos on the album before turning things over to Winston’s tenor, which is also in fine form. “Central Focus”, which Blanchard originally recorded on his Simply Stated album twenty years ago and it makes welcome return here with Blanchard showing what he has learned in the ensuing two decades and Scott setting a beat that is impossible to ignore. Winston’s “Time to Spare”, which he originally recorded on his debut solo album three years ago, appears here in an improved version. Winston is more confident and his tenor runs, which show the influence of Joe Henderson, are more self-assured.

The highlight of highlights is “Don’t Run” which features the great Ron Carter on bass and Ravi Coltrane on soprano sax. The tune takes its title from a joking admonition that Carter made to Blanchard to “Stop running from me, man”, when the trumpeter would suggest that they work together. “Don’t Run” is 7 ½ minutes of jazz awesome, with Blanchard, Coltrane, Carter and Scott, just blowing their brains out. Coltrane starts it; with one of his best solos on soprano that I’ve heard to date. Blanchard comes behind him, clearly intending to not be outdone and Carter, is his usual Hall of Fame self.

Magnetic is a mature and winning artistic statement from Terence Blanchard and his quintet. He demonstrates that in spite of the film work, the operas, the Broadway scores and the other things that divide his attention, he remains one of the best jazz trumpet players working today and that he has the recordings to back it up.

3 Responses to “Album Review – Blanchard’s “Magnetic” Attracts Positive Attention”

  1. Am curious to hear

  2. […] Hard to believe that Terence Blanchard has been on the jazz scene for over thirty years. While he has done everything from score films, to write operas, when you get right down to it, he is never better than he is when he fronting a group and reminding everyone that before all of the Hollywood accolades, Blanchard was one of the best jazz trumpet players around; period. He reminds us again here, with his working group and stellar guest spots from Ravi Coltrane, Lionel Loueke and the incomparable Ron Carter. You can read my full review HERE. […]

  3. […] track on trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s best album in years. Frankly, I’m surprised that Magnetic did not get a Best Instrumental Jazz Album nomination. Nevertheless, this cut features great solos […]

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