Terence Blanchard – A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) – Blue Note/EMI

by | Sep 10, 2007 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Terence Blanchard – A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) – Blue Note/EMI 0946 3 91532 2 0, 72 min. ****:

(Terence Blanchard, trumpet; Brice Winston, tenor & sop. sax; Aaron Parks, piano; Derrick Hodge, acoustic & electric basses; Kendrick Scott, drums & percussion; Zach Harmon, table & happy apple; The Northwest Sinfonia cond. by Terence Blanchard)

A number of jazz artists have committed their emotional musical thoughts about Katrina to CD, and this is one of the latest, from prolific composer/trumpeter Blanchard. It is tied in with his score for the provocative HBO documentary directed by Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. The composer has talked about how difficult it was to get away from that project while he was working on it in New Orleans. Taking a break meant he had to go see how his mother was doing, and that involved driving thru a city with total devastation on 80% of the properties, and no street lights or stop signs anywhere.

Some of the tracks on the CD were originally written for the four-hour documentary, but others are a musical expansion of his experiences doing the soundtrack.  Blanchard is responsible for the soundtrack of the current feature film Talk to Me. At the same time he has been teaching at the Monterey Jazz Festival institute several times and will be performing this month during the September festival as their honorary Artist-in-Residence for 2007.

Blanchard felt that he could expand on some of the music for Spike’s film, and members of his band were also writing music inspired by the aftermath of Katrina. He decide to involve a 40-piece string orchestra in the new music.  In Levees and some of the other tracks, Blanchard’s trumpet above the massed strings connotes a lonely and desolate sound that reminded me of some of Hovhaness’ works. When beginning the actual studio recording, the idea of using what he calls ghost pieces came to him. They represent warnings of the past, such as of Hurricane Betsy and a bad flood in 1927.  In Time of Need – by Blanchard’s saxist Brice Winston – has wordless vocals. He spent his adult life in New Orleans and wanted to express the sadness and frustration of “the countless people affected as a result of human ineptitude.” (I was frankly glad to see that statement, because I felt the title that Blanchard chose for this touching project carries entirely the wrong connotation.)

TrackList: Ghost of Congo Square, Levees, Wading Through, Ashé, In Time of Need, Ghost of Betsy, The Water, Mantra Intro, Mantra, Over There, Ghost of 1927, Funeral Dirge, Dear Mom.

 – John Henry


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