Smitty: When you talk about horn players, you must include my next guest. He has a great new project out. It is called Flow and let me tell you, it is some kind of vibe. My friends, please welcome the amazing and brilliant Mr. Terence Blanchard. Terence, how ya doin’?
Terence Blanchard (TB): I’m fine, Smitty. How ya doin’, man?
Smitty: Wonderful. All right, so you’ve gotta be excited about this record. Flow is a great mix of music, man.
TB: Oh, thank you, thank you. I mean, for us it was a….it’s a great project because the guy that gave us a chance to just kinda document where the band was at that particular moment in time. It’s not a concept record; it’s not a niche record where we’re trying to market with anybody; it’s just really what the band was into musically and we got a chance to put it down. I was gonna say wax, but put it down on hard disc.
Smitty: (Both laughing.) Yeah, I know where you’re coming from.
Smitty: And it’s a fantastic…. I think that’s a brilliant thing too because when you’re in the moment and you want to express yourself in that moment, you’ve gotta do it right then.
TB: Right. Well, that’s the whole thing about playing jazz that I’ve always loved. That’s what I’ve always been fascinated by, the fact that the music itself allows for that type of expression and that type of freedom. And the real good band that I have, these guys are very unique, very honest musicians who have like a constant free-flowing of ideas, and the only drag with this record is that we didn’t get a chance to put multiple takes of tunes on the CD because then people could see how differently these guys will play from take to take.
Smitty: Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s a great band and we really get a real good feel for the band with this record. It’s unbelievable.
TB: Thank you, thank you.
Smitty: You’ve got some great players here, man. But talk a little bit about Terence Blanchard and the horn, man. How did you get introduced to the horn?
TB: It all happened, man, with a guy named Alvin Elkhorn in New Orleans when I was in elementary school studying piano. I’d been playing piano since I was about five years old and this local musician came to my school and gave a demonstration in New Orleans style music, and his name was Alvin Elkhorn. And I remember the first time I heard him play, I kept saying to myself “Man, that’s really what I wanna do,” and I went home and I told my father….I was in fourth grade at the time (laughs)….I told my father, I said “Dad, I think I wanna play the trumpet,” and he had just got a piano in the house for me to practice on, so he wasn’t too enthused about it.
Smitty: (Laughs.) I can imagine. Man oh man. But, you know, the horn is a lot more portable than that piano.
TB: Oh yeah, yes indeed. I was thankful for that. But the thing about him is that he was really cool with it after a while.
TB: And the odd thing about it, man, you know, a few years after that, you know, we were at a stoplight and I said “Dad,” I said….in the car next to us was the guy. I said “Dad, that’s the guy who came to my school,” and my father said “Oh, man, that’s Al,” and so my father rolled down the window and he said “Hey, Al, this is my son. He wants to learn how to play jazz. He wants to know if you can teach him how to play jazz,” and Al said “No, he’s gotta learn that on his own.”
TB: And I was crushed, man. I was really crushed.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Well, you did it.
TB: Oh, thank you.
Smitty: Oh, man, did you ever. If he….I hope he’s had an opportunity to see you now. Wow.
TB: Well, no, he’s passed on and I never really got a chance to talk to him after that.
TB: ‘Cause I had moved to New York and he died while I was living in New York.
Smitty: Oh, wow. Well, now, talk a little bit about growing up in New Orleans and what that was like musically and what an influence that has been on you even down to this day now.
TB: The thing about growing up in New Orleans is that there’s so many different styles of music that’s being played that are actually part of the New Orleans sound that you don’t even realize it until you grow up, you know what I mean? Because there’s the very traditional jazz sound that’s part of the Louis Armstrong history. Then there’s also the street musicians who have lended a great deal to brass playing or the brass band style of playing. Then you have, like the Meters, the Funky Meters, those guys who came along and did all of that stuff; Professor Longhair, who did a lot for the piano itself. And for us it was just all a part of the New Orleans stuff and you never really realize how vast it is until you actually start to talk about it and start to have to explain it to people.
Smitty: Yeah, yeah, it is just a Mecca.
TB: But the thing about it that was great for us is that being a jazz musician is that, you know, in hearing all of those sounds or all of those styles and then going home and listening to Miles Davis, one could readily hear that there was an evolution in the music, that the music went from period to the next, that it wasn’t this kind of stagnant thing, and in order to understand that, our entry into the business meant that we were a part of the continuum and that it was very encumbered upon us to kinda take things to the next level or to try to be ourselves or to try to move on but, in any case, not to try to stand still in one spot.