WBGO Blog
  • Terence Blanchard Quintet: Live At The Village Vanguard

    February 18, 2009. Posted by WBGO.

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    Terence Blanchard. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    Many Americans have heard Terence Blanchard's music, even if they don't know it — he's scored many of Spike Lee's films since the early '90s. But only a relative few have connected Blanchard the movie composer with Blanchard the acclaimed jazz trumpeter, who combines a love for the music of his native New Orleans with modern hard bop and a spirit of innovation. In the latter capacity, Blanchard brought his quintet north into New York's Village Vanguard, for a performance broadcast live on air by WBGO and live online here at NPR Music.

    Blanchard and his band performed nearly uninterrupted for well over an hour, pausing only for introductions mid-set. The night began with slow, dirge-like paeans from Blanchard's latest album A Tale of God's Will (inspired by post-Katrina New Orleans), which morphed into a panoply of energized rhythms and settings. Blanchard's trumpet shone throughout, from airy puffs slurred together into caliginous solos to vibrant, high-note acrobatics.

    Backing him was an unfalteringly precise band of relatively young artists. Bassist Derrick Hodge is also a film composer and hip-hop producer; drummer Kendrick Scott also appeared in the previous Village Vanguard broadcast with Kurt Rosenwinkel, and manages his own record label. The rest of the band featured fairly new additions in pianist Fabian Almazan, trained in Cuba and Miami, and saxophonist Walter Smith III, who was playing his first substantial gig with the group.

    As a young musician, Blanchard got his first big break from another New Orleans trumpeter. Wynton Marsalis recommended Blanchard to drummer Art Blakey; Blanchard soon became the musical director of the Jazz Messengers for several years in the 1980s. Not long after he left Blakey to pursue a solo career, Blanchard began to score films. He's since amassed more than 10 jazz albums and more than 25 film soundtracks, and he's currently working on a new recording. Since 2000, Blanchard has also been the artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and lobbied successfully to move the headquarters to his hometown of New Orleans.

    Blanchard's latest album merges his various artistic pursuits with profound inspiration: A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) features his quintet backed by a 40-person string orchestra. After Spike Lee asked Blanchard to score his four-hour documentary When the Levees Broke, Blanchard was inspired to fill out an album's worth of music. The resulting disc won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

    "It was probably the most difficult artistic project that I've ever been associated with," Blanchard told NPR's Neal Conan in 2007.

    Blanchard was fresh off his greatest national exposure yet. He recently won another Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo ("Be-Bop," from a live performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2007), and performed that night with an eclectic New Orleans lineup of Lil Wayne, Allen Toussaint and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. This Village Vanguard concert marked Blanchard's second nationally broadcast performance in as many weeks, though compared to the Grammy ceremony, he performed at significantly greater length.

    Set List

    • "Levees"
    • "Funeral Dirge"
    • "Wandering Wonder"
    • "Fred Brown"
    • "Bounce"

    Personnel

    • Terence Blanchard, trumpet
    • Walter Smith, tenor saxophone
    • Fabian Almazan, piano
    • Derrick Hodge, bass
    • Kendrick Scott, drums

    Credits

    • Josh Jackson, producer and host
    • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
    • Josh Webb, recording assistant
  • WBGO Studio Session: Gilfema + 2

    February 4, 2009. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Lionel Loueke of Gilfema

    Lionel Gilles Loueke (GIL), Ferenc Nemeth (FE) and Massimo Biolcati (MA) form the core of Gilfema, a cross-border collaboration with a jazz foundation. In our WBGO studio session, the band displays an egalitarian aesthetic rooted in finding common ground as musicians.  Listen to the studio session on NPR Music.

  • Great live music, one story at a time

    February 4, 2009. Posted by Thurston Briscoe.

    Arturo and Travis

    I love live music! It is invigorating to watch the musicians interact with one another as they play. It is as much fun to observe the audience get into the music as it is to listen myself. That is one the exciting parts about broadcasting live from J&R Music World. For the past six years we have showcased numerous musicians debut their new CDs. I have produced the whole series and this has given me the opportunity to get to know the regulars. That is one of the unique privileges of working at a radio station being in the community. You get to interact with the listeners. They tell you what they like and don’t like. The listeners also get to know the artists and each other.

    The very first concert we presented 6 years ago featured Grammy nominated pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill. From the beginning, a young and eager 10 year-old named Travis Wolcott was one of two boys who would sit cross-legged on the floor in front of the stage. When the series first started, we held drawings for door prizes and Travis would help pull the winner’s names out of the box. His participation became a part of the show.

    Travis and his brother Thomas, along with his dad Tom continued to attend the broadcasts and we became friends. My birthday or a holiday never came without a card from the Wolcotts. But the one constant reminder of how much a part of our lives this family has become was the sight of Travis each month in the front row as we presented artists at J&R.

    Travis sat and watched and listened to every note and that he depended upon us made this all especially significant. Travis and Tom were on site early January 17 this year for our last scheduled broadcast from J&R, not coincidentally featuring Arturo’s sextet. Travis picked his familiar place on the floor and Tom and I reminisced about the drawing days.

    People say you never think of the good time you are having as “the good old days”. But the Saturdays (and a few Tuesdays) we spent at J&R gave us wonderful memories, and a more great live music.

    But then, the music ended. The series ended.

    Our friends at J&R made it possible to bring the new music to our listeners and to special fans like Travis.

    We won’t let him down. That’s why we ask for your support. Jazz88 is about giving our listeners music!

    TB