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Terence Blanchard in Concert at Jazz Fest

Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard

On a cold February day in Ann Arbor, the 2007 University of Michigan Jazz Festival honored a brilliant beacon of music — Louis Armstrong, known to players as "Pops." His biography is essentially the jazz creation story. Born into poverty in New Orleans in 1901, half a century before the Supreme Court ended legal racial discrimination in public schools and 60 years before the Voting Rights Act, this African-American artist invented a high-power trumpet sound and glorious improvisations and arrangements to go with it. He steered American culture in new directions. His career was lifelong, and his following was international.

Sixty years after Pops, Terence Blanchard was born, also in New Orleans — where it means something to take up the trumpet. And that's just what young Terence did. However, Miles Davis was more Blanchard's idol than Pops was. Today, Blanchard has a three-part career. His two recent CDs from Blue Note — Bounce and Flow — display his flexible trumpet sound, subtle compositions and ever more youthful band. He has scored more than 35 feature films, including a dozen Spike Lee movies. Finally, Blanchard is the artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. In fall 2007, he's bringing this elite, college-level training program home from southern California to Loyola University in New Orleans.

At a public "historical lecture" at the University of Michigan Jazz Festival, Blanchard reflected on Armstrong's breakthrough career, especially his ability to turn popular songs into something familiar but original. Later, in a master class, Blanchard answered students' questions about film scoring. And then, into the night, he and his telepathic quintet headlined the feature concert.

Opening for Blanchard, the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble played swing, Celtic music and a dash of mambo, with Professor Ellen Rowe conducting.


David Lau of Brookwood Studio, assistant Rich Blatt. PA by Jim Gibbons.

Recording and remix by JazzSet's Duke Markos with Yujin Cha. Remix of University Jazz Ensemble by Dave Greenspan.

Producer Becca Pulliam, Executive Producer Thurston Briscoe III at WBGO Jazz 88 in Newark, NJ, and wbgo.org.

Copyright 2007 WBGO