|Terence Blanchard - A Tale of God's Will (a Requiem for Katrina)|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Scott Yanow|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008|
Terence Blanchard was one of the first trumpeters to come to prominence after Marsalis. He never sounded like Wynton and there is little trace of traditional New Orleans jazz in his playing or recordings, but Blanchard (even when living elsewhere) considers New Orleans home. Since succeeding Marsalis in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, he has grown into one of the truly great trumpeters, displaying an original and distinctive tone, a wide range and a consistently creative imagination. Blanchard has also become an important film composer, writing dozens of scores including many for Spike Lee. During Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke,” Blanchard’s music and trumpet can be heard in important spots.
Four of those melodies are revisited on this CD. A Tale of God’s Will is subtitled A Requiem for Katrina. Completely appalled not only by the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused New Orleans, greatly worsened by the inadequate levees, Blanchard is rightfully disgusted by the incompetence of the local government and the indifference of the federal government, which made the crisis much worse and longer lasting than it needed to be. One wonders when New Orleans will finally be rebuilt, and why it is taking longer than San Francisco after its 1906 earthquake and fire.
For this mournful and rich 13-part suite, Blanchard utilized his regular quintet (saxophonist Brice Winston, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott) plus Zack Harmon on tabla and the 40-piece Northwest Sinfonia. The music has its hopeful stretches, particularly when it becomes nostalgic and remembers ghosts, but in sections titled “Levees,” “Wading Through,” “The Water,” “Funeral Dirge” and “Dear Mom,” it is often heartbreaking.
Terence Blanchard does a remarkable job conveying the strength of the survivors of New Orleans while moaning the unnecessary tragedy and its disturbing aftermath. His trumpet playing has never sounded more emotional than during this very memorable project.
The instrumental emphasis shifts from cut-to-cut, with a trumpet piece succeeded by one in which the bass is prominent or the orchestra temporarily takes over. The balance is always logical. One can hear an effective echo on the trumpet during the most dramatic passages (particularly on the closing “Dear Mom”), and the superior recording quality adds to the power of this remarkable set.