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Music To Speak For The Voiceless

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Thursday June 22, 2017

From South Bend Tribune

Trumpeter Terence Blanchard uses his music to speak for the voiceless
By: Howard Dukes

Taylor Hackford knew who to call when looking for a musician to do the original soundtrack for his film “The Comedian.”

He looked to New Orleans for trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who is one of the headliners for this year’s Elkhart Jazz Festival. Blanchard has written dozens of scores and soundtracks since Spike Lee tapped him to write the score for his 1991 film “Jungle Fever.” Blanchard and Lee have developed a close professional relationship that has seen the trumpeter score all of the filmmaker’s feature films and documentaries since “Jungle Fever.”

Blanchard has written scores for Oscar nominated films “Malcolm X” and “Four Little Girls,” as well as for television series such as “Shots Fired,” so he has a comfort level with writing film scores that likely appealed to Hackford. However, there is another something else that made Blanchard the ideal musician to score the film.

Robert De Niro’s character, the aging comic Jackie Burke, is a big fan of jazz — of 1950s era hard bop jazz made by artists signed to the Blue Note label and particularly the music of of hard bop drummer Art Blakey. A powerful drummer and jazz educator, led Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers for more than 40 years until his death in 1990. Many great jazz musicians honed their crafts as members of the Jazz Messengers, including Blanchard, who was one of Young Lions credited with reviving jazz in the 1980s and became the Messengers’ trumpeter after his friend and fellow New Orleans native Wynton Marsalis left the band.

So if Hackford wanted a musician who understood Blakey and hard bop, he couldn’t do much better than Blanchard.

“We put together a band that was formed like the Blakey band with three horns and a rhythm section,” Blanchard says. “Alto, trumpet and tenor just like it was when I was in the band, and that was the sound that Taylor Hackford was looking for.”

Blanchard says that he is still deeply influenced by the time he spent with his mentor.

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