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Terence Blanchard's Groove

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Friday May 01, 2015

The origin story of Breathless, Terence Blanchard’s spring Blue Note release with his new group, E-Collective, dates to 2006, when Blanchard recorded the soundtrack he’d composed for Inside Man, the Spike Lee caper film in which Denzel Washington plays a hard-boiled old-school detective. He hired drummer Oscar Seaton for the session, and dug Seaton’s mighty grooves. Seaton enjoyed the process, too, and they agreed to collaborate in the future. Around this time, Blanchard, who lives in New Orleans, where he was born and raised, had a similar conversation with bassist Donald Ramsey, an old Crescent City acquaintance.

Nothing happened right away. Blanchard attended to his duties as Artistic Director of the Thelonious Monk Institute and, after 2011, the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami. He composed more soundtracks, two Broadway shows, an opera, and music for several albums by the working quintet — in this period, either Bryce Winston or Walter Smith on tenor saxophone, Fabian Almazan on piano and keyboards, Derrick Hodge or Joshua Crumbly on bass and Kendrick Scott or Justin Brown on drums — that had been his default base of operations since the early 1990s. Then, last spring, Blanchard decided to commit. He asked Almazan to join a plugged-in band with Seaton, Ramsey and guitarist Charles Altura, whom he’d heard on a YouTube clip with Ambrose Akinmusire, once Blanchard’s student at the Monk Institute. During the summer, Blanchard, 54, wrote a batch of danceable tunes built on funk, Afro-pop and hip-hop beats, with succinct melodies and enough harmonic information to facilitate improvisational flexibility. In October he brought E-Collective to New Orleans for two days of rehearsal, and embarked on a three-and-a-half-week European tour for beta-testing and refinement. In December, he reconvened the musicians in New Orleans for the recording.

To read more by Ted Panken in Jazziz click here