November 4, 2007
NOLA SUNDAYS!!!!!!! ~ And the band played on~
Read this fabulous article about the awesome and incomparable NOLA native Terence Blanchard from the Time-Picayune. It is authored by Keith Spera. Being still new to this whole blogger world, I am hesitant to print it in it's entirety, but it is such a GREAT, inspirational and moving piece ~ I just have to encourage you to read it. I just wish I had a jumbo jet so that all of us could have flown down to catch the show, and to meet the legend. Keith Spera's wonderful piece captured the essence of love, of NOLA, and of the pains we must endure to continue, despite our affliction, and how we must push on at whatever the price. We just have to and that's all!
Here is the first time I heard and fell in love with Terence Blanchard's sound as he worked with Spike Lee coaching the emphatic Denzel Washington and dubbing his trumpet playing:
If you want to read the article later just go to: http://blog.nola.com/keithspera/2007/11/terence_blanchard_blows_his_ho.html
and for more on Mr. Blanchard visit: http://www.terenceblanchard.com/
Times-Picayune ~ Keith Spera
Terence Blanchard blows his horn with the LPO tonight
Posted by Keith Spera, Music writer November 03, 2007 2:02PM
Categories: Featured music
For the first time in two years, Hurricane Katrina is not the foremost flood on Terence Blanchard's mind.
A cool morning in mid-October finds the jazz trumpeter and composer padding around his Prytania Street home in bare feet, jeans and a white linen shirt. Much of the sumptuous pre-Civil War dwelling is empty: Blanchard and his family are moving to St. Charles Avenue.
During a deluge earlier in the week, he stopped by the new house to check on renovations. A Dumpster occupied the driveway, so he parked his beloved 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera S -- the one he spent three glorious days driving by himself from Los Angeles to New Orleans -- on a side street. Rainwater backed up along the curb just enough to swamp the Porsche and fry the computer circuitry under the driver's seat.
"The water came up so quick," Blanchard says, shaking his head. "That's why we have insurance. So now I've got to go fight with them."
Come tonight, he'll be back in Katrina mode. Blanchard and his quintet, backed by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and resident conductor Rebecca Miller, will stage the local premiere of his sweeping post-Katrina meditation, "A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina)," at Dixon Hall on the Tulane campus.
Blanchard first composed four of the album's themes for director Spike Lee's HBO documentary "When the Levees Broke." Blanchard also appears in one of the film's most poignant scenes, when he accompanies his mother, Wilhelmina Blanchard, on her first post-Katrina visit to her flooded Pontchartrain Park home. She cries out in grief as her son struggles to maintain his composure.
Blanchard salutes his mother's courage in "Dear Mom," a song on "A Tale of God's Will." She plans to be in the audience for tonight's performance.
"I'm trying not to think about it," Blanchard said. "I mean, it's here in New Orleans. I don't know how other people feel, but some part of me doesn't want to revisit that issue that way. I really want to move on.
"But one of the things we've understood as a band is that this music, unlike any other CD that I've done, has been meaningful for people to experience. So we understand the responsibility as artists to play this music. But it takes us to some dark places emotionally."
. . . . . . .
After graduating from the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts in 1981, Blanchard moved to New York to seek his fortune in the jazz world. He replaced Wynton Marsalis in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, released joint albums with saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr., then moved on to solo projects.
He was still relatively unknown when Spike Lee tapped Blanchard for his first film score. Blanchard has now scored more than 40 films, building the sort of lucrative second career that enables a jazz bandleader to park his Porsche on St. Charles Avenue.
Even before Lee proposed a Katrina documentary, Blanchard tried to address the storm through music.
"But I was drawing a blank. I couldn't think of anything," he said. "And the vastness of the devastation was so crazy, I couldn't assimilate it. I couldn't put it in context."
For six months after Katrina, Blanchard and his family lived in Los Angeles. Lee joined him to score the big-budget heist film "Inside Man."
"Spike didn't even say hello," Blanchard recalled. "The first thing he said was, 'I want to do a documentary on those levees.' He was going to use his notoriety and his fame to help."
Blanchard concluded that his entire career had led up to that moment.
"I didn't want to write New Orleans-style music -- I wanted to write music that was more universal," he said. "Because in my mind, this was a universal story of tragedy, hope, despair. I tried to find melodic themes related directly to those emotions."
Watching a rough cut of "Levees" "sparked a whole other type of inspiration," Blanchard said. "I realized the music can't get in the way of these stories, but had to bring those elements together. The music had to be the glue that brings you back to a reflective frame of mind."
Lee has always encouraged Blanchard to write music that could stand on its own. "He wants people to walk away from the theaters humming the melodies," Blanchard said.
So Blanchard wrote elegant, somber themes that Lee assigned to scenes. The story of a 72-year-old trumpeter stuck on a roof with two elderly women inspired the song "Levees"; the trumpet solo is their unanswered cry for help.
For the foreboding "The Water," Blanchard drew on his own experiences as a little boy when Hurricane Betsy flooded his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood.
"It must have been traumatic, for me to remember as much as I did," he said. "I remember stepping out on the porch. The water wasn't that high, only 2 or 3 feet, but to me it seemed like the ocean.
"There are big, dramatic moments in the arrangement, because I kept thinking about these kids here during Katrina. If I was traumatized from Betsy, and Betsy was nothing compared to Katrina, what are these kids going through?"
He intended "Funeral Dirge" as a dignified repast for a montage of dead bodies.
"When you look at those city streets, places that you've been and areas that you know, and you see dead bodies . . it's hard. Because you say to yourself, 'This isn't a war zone. This is New Orleans. This is my hometown.'
"I wanted to write an arrangement that would pay respect to the dead and give them a proper burial, at least in the documentary."
. . . . . . .
Blanchard wasn't around when Spike Lee pitched his mother on the idea of filming her first visit to her ruined home.
"I was like, 'Do you realize what you agreed to?' " Blanchard said. "And she said, 'People need to see what we're going through.' I was really proud of my mom."
Weeks later, emotions ran high as they approached the house. Lee remained outside as a lone cameraman accompanied the Blanchards.
Terence Blanchard first relived the moment at a screening in New York.
"It's hard watching anybody you love go through something like that," he said. "When I travel, people ask me about my mom. I say, 'She's fine, thank you for asking. But if you cried for my mom, you've got to multiply that amount of emotion by at least 100,000 people. Because that's how many people went through the exact same thing. It wasn't just my mom.'
"That's what blows me away. If people around the world were that affected by my mom in that one little scene . . . that should give you an understanding of the massive amount of destruction and heartache that people have been going through."
Renovations to Wilhelmina Blanchard's house are almost finished, and she plans to move back in soon. But the storm still intrudes on her life. One evening, she and her son were talking about her wedding.
"She got up to go get the pictures, and she stopped and realized they don't exist any more," he said. "And that's months after the damn hurricane."
. . . . . . .
Blanchard reworked four compositions from the Spike Lee documentary -- "The Water," "Levees," "Wading Through" and "Funeral Dirge" -- for "A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina)," his third CD for Blue Note Records.
"Frankly, I was going on faith," he said. "Generally, when you do an album, you think about the songs, the tempos, the moods, how you can fit them into some kind of structure that makes sense and makes for an enjoyable listening experience. With this, we didn't have a clue as to what it was going to be. We just needed to do it."
Just as Art Blakely once encouraged a young Blanchard to write original compositions, Blanchard encourages his musicians to do the same. Thus, "A Tale of God's Will" is a group effort.
Pianist Aaron Parks contributed the achingly beautiful "Ashe" as a benediction. Drummer Kendrick Scott describes his "Mantra" as a "mantra for healing and renewal." Bassist Derrick Hodge's lush, lovely "Over There," written before Katrina, nonetheless fit the CD's theme. Saxophonist Brice Winston wrote "In Time of Need" after moving with his family from New Orleans to Tucson, Ariz.
Blanchard and his quintet showcased selections from "When the Levees Broke" this summer in Europe during concerts devoted to Spike Lee's film music. During a weeklong stand in New York, the quintet performed much of "A Tale of God's Will."
"Everybody was just exhausted," Blanchard said. "It's very emotional stuff that we're dealing with."
Tonight's show with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is only the second full performance of "A Tale of God's Will." The Sept. 22 premiere at the Monterey Jazz Festival in northern California resonated with listeners.
"It is a universal story of tragedy," Blanchard said. "Human loss, human suffering, the human spirit. People could relate to it on that level. People told me they cried during certain parts of the concert. They were profoundly affected by what happened here. We brought a little bit of this world out there."
. . . . . . .
Eager to help New Orleans rebuild, Blanchard entered the fray of post-storm politics by supporting Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu's mayoral bid.
"I quickly learned that is not the route for me," he said. "The quickest way is not to try to hit a home run, but to try to get on base with what I do. I can't do everything. But if everybody does whatever they can, we'll be fine."
For years, Blanchard served as an instructor at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, an intensive graduate-level jazz program based at the University of Southern California. When the Institute announced plans to move, Blanchard, among others, lobbied hard for New Orleans.
This fall, the Institute opened at Loyola University, where Blanchard himself once attended high school summer music programs. As part of its outreach, the Monk students and instructors have planned concerts at Lusher and McDonogh 35 high schools, and NOCCA.
When the Monk Institute was in Los Angeles, Blanchard commuted to California once a month to work with the students. Now that he'll be living near Loyola on St. Charles, he'll likely drop by more often.
Even before Katrina, Blanchard had outgrown his home studio in the Prytania Street house. Robin Burgess, his wife and manager, found the St. Charles Avenue property while Blanchard was on the road. In high school, while commuting on multiple bus lines and the streetcar from Pontchartrain Park to music camp at Loyola, he passed the mansions of St. Charles Avenue.
"He couldn't believe that he'd be living in one of those houses," Burgess said. "He was blown away."
Blanchard has mixed emotions about leaving Prytania Street. He and Burgess' 10- and 8-year-old daughters -- Blanchard also has a 19-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter with his first wife -- grew up there.
But he insists he will never leave his hometown, even though his work often takes him to Los Angeles and New York.
"I never thought about not coming back to New Orleans," he said. "I had the mindset that if it took me and some friends building a house . . . it would have been the most lopsided house, but it would have been standing.
"When I moved back here from New York (in 1995), it rejuvenated me. Coming back here reminded me why I got in the business of music to begin with. To think that there could be a time when this place didn't exist was not on my radar. It would have to totally be destroyed, impossible for me to physically be here, for me not to think about coming back."
Blanchard returned to New Orleans in February 2006 after his six-month Katrina exile in Los Angeles. Soon after, he ate at Brigtsen's restaurant. A spinach salad arrived with a fried oyster on top.
"Man, I bit into that fried oyster and I stopped. It's kind of embarrassing to admit . . . a tear came down my face. That flavor was something that I hadn't had in my mouth for six months.
"When I came back and tasted that, I was like, 'Thank you, Jesus.' I know that sounds silly, but it blew me away. It was confirmation that it was time to get to work and make this city better than it was before."
. . . . . . .
Music writer Keith Spera can be reached at email@example.com or (504) 826-3470.
'A TALE OF GOD'S WILL (A REQUIEM FOR KATRINA)'
What: Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard performs his post-K song cycle, accompanied by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rebecca Miller.
When: Tonight, 8.
Where: Dixon Hall, Tulane University
Cost: Tickets are $35 to $60.
Call: (504) 523-6530, or go to www.lpomusic.com.