Sunday, March 2, 2014


Terence Blanchard
The Paradise Jazz Series at Orchestra Hall draws a conservative crowd. No one understands that better than the jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard does. He helped book two strong seasons. The Paradise Jazz crowd can be disinterested if the music isn’t straight ahead acoustic jazz or some form of bop. Jazz singer Gretchen Parlato received a cold reception when she performed neo-soul tinged jazz at the series two years ago.

Blanchard played the fourth concert of the 2013-2014 series Saturday night with his young band drummer Justin Brown, pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Joshua Crumbly, and saxophonist Brice Winton. Blanchard’s special guests were saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke.

Last year, Blanchard cut a wonderful jazz fusion album Magnetic. His band performed cuts from the album. When Blanchard said his band would play cuts from the album, I was worried the music would be too experimental and hip for the conservative audience. I was wrong.

Blanchard played many of the album’s lighter cuts and a few standards. The wildest the band got was Hallucinations, a jazz fusion cut evocative of Miles Davis's fusion era work. I thought the cut would frighten the audience, but the audience took to it like a newborn to breast milk. 

Blanchard has a young band, and he isn’t the kind of boss who expects the youngsters to do all the manual labor. He got his hands and work boots dirty, too. It was exhilarating the things he did on the trumpet. 

The concert’s downer was Ravi Coltrane playing was difficult to hear. In 2012, he put out his debut for Blue Note Records Spirit Fiction. Many jazz critics agreed the album was Coltrane's best. Sadly, last night Coltrane was little more than a stage prop. In all the years I’ve supported the Paradise Jazz Series, malfunctioning microphones have never been an issue.  

Blanchard never allowed things to get out of hand musically. Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song, which closed the concert and pianist Fabian Almazan wrote, was the concert’s best moment. Blanchard could’ve pushed the band and himself to let their hair down more. 

Blanchard understands the Paradise Jazz audience and it seemed he opted to keep things clean and respectable. The concert wasn’t the best of this series. So far, the Branford Marsalis concert was, and pianist McCoy Tyner’s and Eddie Palmieri’s concerts are upcoming.
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