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Blanchard trumpets the sounds of New Orleans

September 29, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Terence Blanchard's vibrant trumpet lines echoed through Catalina Bar & Grill on Thursday night with the clarion assertiveness of the legendary Buddy Bolden. Although no recordings of Bolden -- often described as the "father of jazz" -- have survived, his powerful turn-of-the-20th century performances established New Orleans as the music's founding home.

Performing in a style rich with the musical gumbo of his native New Orleans, Blanchard has emerged as a vital musical voice of support for the Crescent City in the two years since the devastation wrought by hurricane Katrina, writing the score for Spike Lee's HBO documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" and releasing his own deeply personal reactions in the new recording "A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina)."

A large portion of his Catalina set was devoted to material from the CD. "Levees" and "Funeral Dirge" were richly atmospheric pieces, potent blends of sadness, loss and anger. Blanchard's passionate trumpet solos, often beginning with pensive introspection before bursting into shouts of fury and dismay, took a central role in each.

His frequent face-to-face interaction with drummer Kendrick Scott added an even more invigorating element to the mix, as did the fast-fingered tenor saxophone of Walter Smith, the darkly introspective piano of Cuban-born Fabian Almazur and the solid bass of Derrick Hodge.

Blanchard, one of the prominent, post-Wynton Marsalis young jazz lions since the 1980s, when he replaced Marsalis in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, has always supported his trumpet playing with imaginative production ideas. He's scored dozens of films (many for Lee) and made CDs featuring Brazilian singer-songwriter Ivan Lins, Diana Krall and Jane Monheit and albums devoted to Billie Holiday and the songs of Jimmy McHugh.

The diversity and the demands of those varied activities have enhanced the emotional depth, content and sensitivity of Blanchard's improvisations -- qualities fully evident in his performances of pieces from the CD. But it was equally fascinating to hear his similarly multilayered solos on the jaunty, far less atmospheric tune "Fred Brown" -- the product of his transformation of the joie de vivre of Buddy Bolden into a mature, contemporary, New Orleans-inspired jazz expression.


Terence Blanchard

Where: Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood

When: 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. today, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Sunday

Price: $20 to $30

Contact: (323) 466-9217

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