Look, just because Spokane lacks a dedicated jazz club and just because this purely American musical form has struggled for acceptance and broad appeal in this glorified cowtown, doesn't mean that jazz doesn't thrive in the world at large. Yes, you can make a living as a jazz musician. There are as many levels of success out there as there are valves on an alto saxophone. If you're able to do something you love and make your rent (even if by only a narrow margin), you are truly living a charmed life, my friend.
TERENCE BLANCHARD has certainly -- by any standard you care to apply -- "made it" in jazz, not only as a performer, but also as a bandleader, composer and arranger. He has also risen to the top of the heap in the field of film scoring. Beginning with a small but affecting trumpet solo in Spike Lee's School Daze, Blanchard has gone on to contribute his performing talent to more than two dozen film projects -- including other Lee films, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues and Jungle Fever -- and eventually emerged as a composer, arranger and conductor on such films as Malcolm X, Jazz Suite and Four Little Girls.
Blanchard -- along with his touring band -- will be the star of this year's SFCC Jazz Festival Concert on Saturday, a performance capping off two days of instructional clinics, mini concerts and special appearances by local jazz luminaries. Backing Blanchard's trumpet playing will be an ensemble comprised of Brice Winston on tenor saxophone, pianist Edward Simon, Derek Nievergelt on bass and drummer Eric Harland.
Blanchard knows all about the power of inspiration. Though he was born and raised in a musically inclined New Orleans household (his father studied voice and sang in a church choir) and had piano lessons at an early age, nothing clicked inside until he witnessed live performances by working musicians.
"Nothing can beat being a jazz musician, playing a club, playing a concert," he says. "When I stood next to Sonny Rollins at Carnegie Hall and listened to him play, that was it for me."
And it is through performing that Blanchard continues to draw inspiration and knowledge. His latest CD (entitled Wandering Moon), his first album of original compositions in five years, is the result of considerable soul searching and was borne out of a desire to return to center, so to speak -- get back to basics. The album marks a return for Blanchard to the realm of straight-ahead jazz composition for its own sake and has been overwhelmingly accepted by the jazz community as a triumph. In Down Beat's recent reader's poll, Blanchard and Wandering Moon landed on top in the Jazz Artist, Trumpeter and Album categories.
The disc contains 10 instrumental pieces, eight of which were penned by Blanchard. It is the culmination of several years spent internalizing jazz classics in an attempt to grow as a composer and instrumentalist. The results speak for themselves. Wandering Moon showcases Blanchard's mastery of his instrument and his ability to establish mood; it settles in over the recording and is sustained throughout. This is music for pensive, contemplative dispositions. On track after track, Blanchard demonstrates his proficiency at translating the complexities of human emotion through his horn, and expression flows. And the performer communicates directly, succinctly, without words. The connection is made. It's the stuff of which inspiration is made.
Quite simply, Blanchard is at the forefront of his generation, a generation charged with the task of moving into new compositional terrain while maintaining the traditions that brought the music this far. It's no small task. But it's one for which Blanchard seems well equipped.
& & & lt;i & Terence Blanchard will perform as part of the SFCC Jazz Festival in the SFCC Music/Performing Arts Building on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 8 pm. Tickets: $16; $12, for students in advance. $18/$14, the day of the show. Call: 325-SEAT. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &