Influences: Trumpet player, bandleader, composer Terence Blanchard

Share via

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

The lineage of unsung legends in the world of New Orleans jazz runs deep. Fortunately, the soul and style of their sounds ring loud and clear in the music of trumpet player Terence Blanchard.

Raised in the Dixieland hotbed of the Crescent City, the five-time Grammy winner grew up combining the hard bop sound of Miles Davis and John Coltrane with the down-home spark and flavor of the South. By the 1980s, he’d emerged as a brass-wielding force of nature, playing and learning alongside Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey and childhood friend Wynton Marsalis.


In the early ‘90s Blanchard’s path as a trumpet player, composer and bandleader spilled into the world of film. Ushered in by director Spike Lee, Blanchard’s emotional compositions became part of nearly all of Lee’s pivotal films, from 1992’s “Malcolm X” to 2006’s gripping Hurricane Katrina documentary ‘When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.’ His participation in the cinematic excavation of African American history continues with his work as a composer in the forthcoming George Lucas-produced film “Red Tails,” a story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

And Blanchard’s career, much like his music, is known for interesting and unexpected turns. In May, he brought his talents to Broadway, scoring original music for the well received play ‘The Mother... With the Hat.’ Through the years, Blanchard’s work on albums, television, stage and film has given a collective voice, regardless of medium, to the people and places that inspire him. Blanchard makes a stop in Hollywood this weekend at the Catalina Jazz Club, with performances Aug. 19-21.

He talks about his influences:

Miles Davis: Miles was a person who epitomized what it meant to be a jazz artist. He was uncompromising. He was a person who didn’t look back and didn’t let his decisions be swayed by anything other than his drive for creation, and you have to truly respect that.

Clifford Brown: I view him as one of the most unsung heroes of jazz because of his untimely death. I shudder to think what he would’ve developed had he lived longer than 25 years. His technical prowess is already amazing, and he knew how to put it in a musical context that was very inspiring and appealing. I came across his and Miles Davis’ music in high school, thanks to Wynton Marsalis, who helped me learn the [trumpet] in high school.

Alvin Alcorn: He is the reason I picked up the trumpet. Where I grew up in New Orleans it’s the kind of place that has tons and tons of musicians who may not have made a name for themselves on a national stage but are big stars here. They were a big part of my music education growing up because I would hear them on a regular basis. But Alvin is one that influenced me the most.

Spike Lee: He always challenges me, setting the bar pretty high. He has a strong love of melody, which creates a challenge when you’re writing music for certain genres. On [the soundtrack for] “Inside Man,” for example, I wrote a whole bunch of arrangements and I chose a few of my favorites that I thought he liked and he didn’t pick them, he picked some other things I wrote. And I think that forces me grow as an artist. He says, ‘Look man, trust me, this is gonna work.’ And he’s been right every time.



Jazz review: Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard at the Broad Stage

Trumpeter Terence Blanchard takes his composing talents to Broadway

The Roots, Lee Konitz lead the 2011 Playboy Jazz Festival

-- Nate Jackson