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Terence Blanchard’s Jazz Stratosphere

October 22, 2011

Jazz is that most curious of disciplines, a music that relies on note-perfect precision as it shatters boundaries and stretches its timbre toward new levels of expression. It’s a music born of solid tradition, but one that aims for the stars that it often, perhaps inevitably, soars beyond.

Terence Blanchard is part of a newer stratosphere of jazz stars, a trumpeter who emerged from a New Orleans tradition—personally as well as musically—and earned his chops with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton and, at the recommendation of boyhood friend and fellow trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, drummer Art Blakey. Along the way the shackles of those traditions seem to have loosened significantly and, man, what a ride he and his band provide.

Blanchard’s quintet came down to earth on the UW-Madison campus Friday night, innocuously taking the stage at the Wisconsin Union Theater. From his opening solo notes, however, Blanchard unleashed a take-no-prisoners trumpet blast that let us know we soon would be airborne.

Saxophonist Brice Winston, the only member of Blanchard’s standard quintet present, was at the top of his game, trading licks with his boss and sharing compositional credits throughout the evening. Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan added a little heart to the front line, slowing the tempo from time to time with elegant, even inspired movements that allowed everyone in the room to take a breath, literally as well as figuratively.

The band was backed by a solid rhythm section that included 19-year-old Juilliard School student Joshua Crumbly on bass and pickup drummer Jarmire Williams, who had never before played with the band. Most of the audience found that hard to believe given the stunning rave-up between Williams and Blanchard during an extended improvisation on the classic “Autumn Leaves.”

The evening’s highlight no doubt was Blanchard’s composition “Choices,” which dominated the show’s second half. The performance called for additional electronic keyboard work from Almazan and a trumpet so dressed with electronic effects that Blanchard’s music really did seem as if soared beyond the WUT confines.

For some of us, the trip began much earlier in the performance. It was just a matter of allowing the time and opportunity for others to catch up.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Reynaldo permalink
    October 25, 2011 2:06 pm

    Jeremiah Williams is one of the most amazing drummer I ever heard. How can I find more information about him? There is no much information on the net about this remarkable young musician, so I would ask anyone to please share any info about him. Thanks!


  2. Reynaldo permalink
    October 25, 2011 2:16 pm

    Thanks to Ben Ferris, I know why now! His correct name is Jamire Williams!

  3. Mike and Jean permalink*
    November 8, 2011 1:13 pm

    Well, thank you Ben and Reynaldo. We appreciate the clarification.

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