Just back from the Terence Blanchard
Sextet. It's HK's annual Arts Festival, which means that there's a blip on the usually somnolent horizon of this cultural backwater. (Thought to self -- "wasteland"? No, backwater's more like it. The HMV store does stock decent stuff, as does HK Records, and once a year we do get some succour. To come round. We get some succour to come round. Get it get it?) Once a year we get some culture, and not being choosers, we lap it up with eyes closed.
I say that literally. I had never heard of Terence Blanchard before I saw the program schedule a couple of months ago. I had just blindly checked all the entries (i.e., both), in the "jazz" column of the program. I had never heard his music until today. The only person who I had asked about him had said, "Oh yeah, the vibraphonist, right?" I had said, "Possibly."
Turns out Terence Blanchard plays trumpet. He was tutored in high school by Ellis Marsalis, and replaced Wynton in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. He's recently been taking tips from Shorter and Hancock (more on that below). Heh, some pedigree, ignoramus me. His sextet, not that you wanted to know, consists of Brice Winston, (age 35) on tenor and soprano saxophone (excellent phrasing and feel), Lionel Loueke (from Benin) on electric guitar and vocals (absolute genius on rhythm as well as lead, abstract angular jazz lines as well as melody), Aaron Parks (age 22) on piano (some wonderful compositions), Derrick Hodge (age 26) on bass, and Kendrick Scott (age 25) on drums (very nice touch but I thought he over-played a little at times). A really really young group.
Blanchard, who's apparently been picking up tips from Shorter and Hancock (who produced their latest CD "Flow" last year, and I'm certain I caught the Maiden Voyage theme at the end of the second number) at the Thelonious Monk Institute, said again and again that this group of musicians were really creative ("visionary"), and he commented on their youth as well. They certainly were a cohesive band, and when they stretched out they pushed and pulled in all kinds of crazy dimensions. I particularly liked a sequence where they started off a number, that the African guitarist had written, with all band members playing percussion on their various instruments, then the guitarist came in with some soft plucking, and suddenly his amp or something gave out. He knelt down to fiddle with the connections but the band continued on the rhythm, then amped it up a little when they saw he needed some time, and soon they were on a full-fledged jam that automatically receded into a vamp as soon as he stood up, and in the blink of an eyelid he was into his solo. Magic. Also noteworthy about that particular number was the vocal 'track' that he laid down, augmented with clicks and sounds a little like Bobby McFerrin. He also had a Keller Williams-like repeater box, so at one point he was making two sounds with his mouth (in real time), plus three sounds, plucking, slapping (like on a bass), and playing lead, on his guitar. All with a soft funk bass, brushes on the drums (LOVE that sound, every time), and minimalist piano impressions. Aah. The disks were all sold out in the foyer, but never mind, it goes on the list.
The music was great, but the really interesting thing about the evening's experience, however, was my wrist. Just about three hours prior to the show starting, my squash partner had managed to land a full-blooded follow-through on the bony knobbly part of my right wrist. By the time the show began, the area was nice and pink and swollen. (Hmmm...) It still is. And it's gotten chilly these days (or should I say a nip to the air), so I was certainly feeling it in the evening when I walked in to the auditorium. But, here's the thing, two hours later I realized I'd applauded several times during the evening. My palms were nice and buzzing. The bony pink swollen part was as pink and swollen as before. When I looked at it, it hurt. Still does. But for two hours, Terence and friends took it all away.