The Terence Blanchard Group featuring Bilal & Dr. Cornel West – Choices – Concord Jazz – CJA 31736-02, 1:13:45 ****:

(Terence Blanchard – trumpet & synthesizers,  Lionel Loueke – guitar, Walter Smith III – saxophone, Fabian Almazan – piano, Derrick Hodge – acoustic and electric bass, Kendrick Scott – drums & percussion, Bilal – vocals & effects and Dr. Cornel West – spoken word)

I’m usually a little leery of spoken word albums.  But like Ken Nordine’s Word Jazz, Choices delivers the conscious effort of melding jazz with the stimulating thoughts of Dr. Cornel West.   Recording an album for the first time in New Orleans at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Blanchard continues to build his resume as one of the elite trumpeters of all time.  

Choices would be a great gateway album as an introduction to Blanchard‘s music for any Blanchard virgin audience.  His live performances are as enchanting as the recorded sessions here.  In addition to Dr. West, “neo-soul” singer Bilal lends his voice to several tracks; including my album favorite Touched By An Angel.  

The acoustic sound on this album is perfectly blended with the cuts of Dr. West.  The poetry and philosophical conversation lends itself to each song.  In a time where it seems easy to put out hokey albums of prose and music, Choices is a fresh reminder that a trumpet pioneer isn’t about to cheapen the value of the combination of jazz and provocative thought.

1. Byus
2. Beethoven
3. D’s Choice
4. Journey
5. Hacia del Aire
6. Jazz Man in the World of Ideas
7. Him or Me
8. Choices
9. Hugs
10. Winding Roads
11. When Will You Call
12. A New Note
13. A New World
14. Touched By An Angel
15. Robin’s Choice

— Paul Pelon IV