Over the last few years I'd almost forgotten that Terence Blanchard plays trumpet. He all but retired in the early 90s to reconstruct his embrouchure, and even after he resumed performing, a move from New York to his native New Orleans meant fewer high-profile gigs. And his work as a composer for film and television has occupied more and more of his time--he's scored Eve's Bayou (1997), the new Next Friday, and several TV specials, as well as most of Spike Lee's films. He went three years without making an album under his own name, and then in 1999 released Jazz in Film (Sony), which downplays his piquant trumpet in favor of reworked classic compositions and Joe Henderson's tenor. All this makes the new Wandering Moon (Sony) a pleasant surprise--it's the most convincing testament yet to Blanchard's virtuosity and leadership. The band on the disc bears a distinct resemblance to the trad-inspired sextets led by Blanchard's early mentor, Wynton Marsalis, but even when Blanchard borrows one of Wynton's favorite devices--a modified second-line beat, for instance, or a smeary smolder in his sound--he infuses it with a postwar noirishness, undoubtedly a product of his work in cinema. Blanchard now has a brighter, more versatile timbre than he did in the 80s, during his tenure in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and then as coleader of a quintet with fellow Messenger Donald Harrison. His trumpet can prance as well as drive, and his solos spill out with the dramatic logic of compositions. Blanchard's traveling band features most of the musicians on Wandering Moon, notably galvanic pianist Edward Simon. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Joseph Pluchino.