Music Friday: Terrance Blanchard at Clove Lake Park This Week

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Terrance Blanchard

 

Upcoming this week, a not to be missed performance by trumpet master Terrance Blanchard. He will bring his current performance unit, the E Collective, to Clove Lake Park in Staten Island. The Friday evening 7PM event is part of the Summerstage program of free concerts, theater, and more.

The highlight of the concert will likely be the featured selections from Blanchard's latest recording, BREATHLESS. Released in spring 2015, the album takes its title from the July 17, 2014 police killing of Staten Islander Eric Garner.  His last words,"I can't breathe" have gone from viral video to protest line tee shirts. It has inspired a still-growing movement against police violence, an effort that has forced the issue onto the Presidential campaign agenda.  This will be Blanchard's first performance of the composition at the approximate scene of the crime.

Blanchard is a multiple Grammy winning composer,band leader, teacher, and musician.  Born and raised in New Orleans, he studied with the Marsalis brothers before his tenure with the Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey bands.  He had a memorable association with Donald Harrison, which resulted in 5 recordings and a inventory of great live performances.  He started his own group in 1990.

Blanchard has become the most prolific mainstream jazz artist to create scores for Hollywood films. Notwithstanding the #OscarsSowhite phenomenon, he has surpassed the greats, Oliver Nelson and Quincy Jones in that department. He has scored most of the Spike Lee films, including his ghosting of the trumpet parts for Denzel Washington's character in "Mo Better Blues."  He also scored the movie "Red Tails," directed by George Lucas and Anthony Hemingway; the story of the Tuskeegee airmen.

Blanchard's willingness to address this issue, to not ignore the obvious social dysfunction, is part of an essential, growing consciousness by African-American artists and celebrities.  No longer willing to take a hefty paycheck and keep quiet, more and more of our artistic trendsetters are using their art as a soapbox from which to initiate a dialogue.

The same pain and concern that motivated the Blanchard composition, also impacted dozens of NBA players, led by basketball King Lebron James. In December last year they decided to break the rules, risk a hefty fine, and wear their "I can't breathe" Tee's during game warmups. In a related development earlier this month, several WNBA players from the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, Indiana Fever were initially fined for wearing Tee's with a "Black Lives Matter" message.  Interestingly, the athletes' willingness to accept a fine, their united response to the league, and support from the community forced the WNBA to rescind the threatened fines. The WNBA protests were intended to highlight the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

We can see the same tendency in both traditional and contemporary music. As Lamar Kendrick's Grammy show-stopper demonstrated, the "conscious" rappers are artistically, if not financially outpacing the frontier American-styled violence/misogyny-drenched gangster rap. President Obama was forced to take notice.

And, at T.S. Monk's recent Jazzmobile performance in Harlem, a social message was also delivered. Gone are the R&B tunes from the previous millennium, replaced by classical American music. He closed his show  with a great 'Round Midnight that featured tenor sax by  patience Higgins. I was as impressed by his solo-for- drums arrangement of Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Bid Em In" monologue. Monk reminded the audience about the importance of the vote this fall.

Does this set the mood for you? Okay, so don't miss Blanchard at Clove Lake Park.

 

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