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Terence Blanchard at the Jazz Standard, 31 May 2013

Marc Rosenfeld Antunes
Staff Writer / @mcrantunes

From Wednesday the 28th of May to Sunday the 2nd of June, Terence Blanchard showcased his newest album, Magnetic to a New York City audience at the Jazz Standard. On Friday night, the venue was packed and buzzing with anticipation—for many, this would be the first listen for a great new release from Blue Note. Blanchard and his band did not disappoint the crowd: just as the album itself exposes Blanchard’s mastery of a style, the performance was fresh and exciting.

The band on the album is composed several young musicians. It features pianist Fabian Almazan, who has recently worked with Linda Oh, drummer Kendrick Scott, who has been busy with his own release, Conviction, bassist Joshua Crumbly, recent Juilliard graduate as well as Brice Winston on tenor sax. At the show, the audience was surprised by Justin Brown’s taking Kendrick Scott’s seat on the drums. And although the band’s chemistry is phenomenal on the album, Justin Brown adapted perfectly, communicating fluently with the rest of the band members. Overall, the band worked together in a very dynamic fashion.

But the interesting thing about the band is not so much its great performance and its high caliber. For someone like Terence Blanchard, having a great band to back you up is simply the status quo. Noteworthy, though, is the age gap between the members of the band and Blanchard himself. It’s been done before—big names like Marcus Miller have gone out to assemble bands with younger musicians like that band featured on Miller’s Tutu Revisited. For Miller, the point was to provide a fresh take on Miles Davis’ classic Tutu.

But Blanchard isn’t reinterpreting any classics. In fact, the album showcases at least one piece composed by each band member. It’s as if Blanchard was immersing himself completely into the minds of these fresh talents. But there was something of his old self in those newer compositions by his younger counterparts. Blanchard originally made a name for himself in 1980s post-bop music. Back then, his music was fast, intense. On this past Friday night, Blanchard opened with a composition by Winston, “Time to Spare”, featuring a fast theme, exciting comping, and wild solos, very reminiscent of that earlier post-bop era.

The album itself is riddled with reference to the past. For instance, later on in the show, the band performed “Don’t Run”, featuring a cool walking bass and smooth solos—the piece was written in honor of and in a style evocative of the great Ron Carter. As a kind of an extra reference to the 1980s jazz scene, Blanchard made recurrent use of an effects pedal to the process the sound of his trumpet in various different ways. Today, some might think that to be an outdated sound, but Blanchard pulls it off, and not only as a call to the past.

Blanchard isn’t recreating the past with this album, though he is nodding to it, but he isn’t stuck in nostalgia of the past either. This past Friday night, Blanchard proved that though he has been in the game for a while now, he is still a major player with an exciting style and a fresh sound.

Marc Antunes is a student, writer, and critic. Follow him on Twitter.