Terence Blanchard enters the opera

Throughout the summer, New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard accompanied the illustrious Herbie Hancock on an imposing European tour. Beyond his stage exploits alongside the patriarch, he is also a formidable composer and conductor whose manifest activism nourishes the works. Met on July 19, 2022 during the Marseille Jazz des Cinq Continents, Terence Blanchard told us of his pride but also of his regret at being the only African-American to have presented a lyrical piece at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, ” Fire shut up in my bones », now available for legal download.

Terence Blanchard has in him the heritage of a century-old culture that he has been developing since the beginning of his career at the dawn of the 80s. At 60, he is a highly respected instrumentalist. Terence Blanchard cut his teeth in the orchestras of Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey. He became one of the Jazz Messengers in 1982, a veritable institution which has seen the greatest soloists in the history of jazz, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Benny Golson, the Marsalis brothers (Branford and Wynton), Donald Harrison, among others… This experience will mark him deeply, but other adventures await him and, in particular, a meeting. At the turn of the 90s, he met director Spike Lee who very quickly entrusted him with the soundtrack of his first films, including “Mo Better Blues”.

The complicity that arises between Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard leads them to collaborate more. Until today, these two demanding creators share an artistic and political vision of their time which is expressed in their works and their positions. Terence Blanchard, like his friend Spike Lee, does not hide his annoyance when the lives of his contemporaries are threatened daily by violent racism which has plagued American society for decades. Its E-Collective group is undoubtedly the affirmation of its civic engagement. In each of his discographic or stage productions, Terence Blanchard warns of discrimination and injustice. “It’s something I’ve had with me for a very long time. And I am not the first to denounce the excesses of society… Remember “Freedom Now! by Max Roach, “Alabama” by John Coltrane, and I could go on with the list… that I live today. It was Hurricane Katrina, in 2005 in New Orleans, that made me react. I had the feeling that the government had completely abandoned us. No official spoke or cared about the suffering of the population. I needed to get more involved. Then things got out of hand. The gun problem has grown in the United States. We have all the same recently seen, in a so-called free country, police officers kill American citizens in cold blood because of the color of their skin. Much has been said about Donald Trump in recent years, but the problem of police violence is not new. It is still not resolved today. So we have to keep talking about it.” (Terence Blanchard on the microphone of Joe Farmer)

Terence Blanchard in Marseille before his concert with his friend Herbie Hancock.

Even if Terence Blanchard’s protesting remarks are not unanimously appreciated in the United States, his talent is undeniable and has already won him five Grammy Awards. His last great creative madness is therefore an opera, ” Fire shut up in my bones “, presented at the MET in 2021. In addition to the fact that this imposing lyrical piece is the first composed by an African-American in this prestigious performance hall, it tells the story of a black man, poor, sexually abused by his own cousin, who will search all his life for a way to resist revenge.

For more than 40 years, Terence Blanchard has never ceased to surprise and charm us. Affable man, talkative interlocutor, he is a convinced activist who expresses in music his torments and his reflections always in a spirit of appeasement. ” We all do part of humanity what whatever the place where we were born. The world is a small piece of land in the universe. So we have to learn at live together and to accept our differences. We must even rejoice in these differences because each of us brings our specificity. It’s rather rewarding, right? why worry of the one who doesn’t look like you and be on the defensive ? “. (Terence Blanchard – July 2022).

► The website of Terence Blanchard.

Herbie Hancock, Lionel Loueke, Terence Blanchard, James Genus, Justin Tyson, during the Marseille Jazz des Cinq Continents 2022.