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Oscar-Nominated Terence Blanchard On 30 Years Of Jazz And Film Scoring For Spike Lee

Henry Adebonojo

Terence Blanchard wrote his first piece of music for a Spike Lee joint nearly 30 years ago. The movie was Mo' Better Blues, which revolves around a brooding jazz trumpeter played by Denzel Washington. Blanchard was on set to ghost those trumpet parts, but at one point, Spike heard him playing a theme at the piano, and asked him to write an accompanying string arrangement.

That moment kicked off a collaboration that has now spanned well over a dozen films, from Jungle Fever and Malcolm X up through BlacKkKlansman, which yielded first-time Academy Award nominations for both artists (in the categories of Best Director, Best Picture and Best Original Score.) Blanchard's haunting main theme for BlacKkKlansman, "Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil)," also just won Best Instrumental Composition at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.

Beyond the accolades, Blanchard's extensive work in film has transformed his capacities as a composer and bandleader. In this radio episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll consider not only how jazz influences his scoring, but also how he brings cinematic perspective to the bandstand. Along with Blanchard and Spike, we'll glean perceptive insights from pianist Fabian Almazan and critic and scholar Jason King.

We'll also hear a lot of music from the Tri-C Jazz Festivals in Cleveland where Blanchard performed with his band, The E-Collective; played original themes from The Comedian; and unveiled a sweeping new commission, "Our Voices: Democracy RE:visited," featuring The E-Collective with orchestral and choral reinforcements.


  • "Jackie in the Rain" (Blanchard)
  • "Electricity on MacDougal" (Blanchard)
  • "See Me As I Am" (Blanchard)
  • "Our Voices: Democracy RE:visited" (Blanchard)

    "Jackie in the Rain" and "Electricity on MacDougal" - Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Khari Allen Lee: alto saxophone; Ravi Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Kenny Barron: piano; David Pulphus: bass; Carl Allen: drums

    "See Me As I Am" - Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Charles Altura: guitar; Fabian Almazan keyboards; Donald Ramsey: bass; Oscar Seaton: drums

    "Our Voices: Democracy RE:visited" - Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Charles Altura: guitar; Dale Black: bass; James Francies: keys; Oscar Seaton: drums; Orlando Watson, RA Washington: vocals


    CityMusic Cleveland:

    Ellen Breakfield-Glick, Andrew Stefaniak: clarinet; David Snyder: bass clarinet; John Wetherill: bassoon; Lisa Fink, Andrew Symington: horn; Nina Dvora Bell, Heather Zweifel: trumpet; Morgan Wynn, Sebastian Bell: trombone; Kenneth Heinlein: tuba; Dylan Moffit, Evan Mitchell: percussion; Miho Hashizume, Paul Meyer, Susan Britton, Tobiah Murphy, Aaron Schwartz: violin I; Minju Kim, Aniela Eddy, Ann Yu, James Larson: violin II; Yaël Senamaud-Cohen, Katerina Istomin: viola; Anna Hurt, Nataliya Pshenychna: cello; Joel Negus: bass; Brany Hudelson: flute; Justine Meyers: oboe.

    Spirit of the Groove Gospel Choir:

    Led by Jimmie Parker with Raziya Hernton, Sierra Robinson, Tasheka Washington, Latasha Brown , Jeanneice Jackson, Mirna Nock, June Burrage, Linda Jackson, Laveta Parker, Valerie Mathis: soprano; Kate Kooser, Adrianna Miller, Qiong-Mei Ngo, Nancy Osgood, Leslie Perkins, Kimille Webb, Zeta Wilkins, Tamara Shelton, Jubilee Jones, Leah Sanders, Marla Travick, Manalisa Williams, Diana Harris: alto; Alex Berko, Patricia Buckingham, Deitrick Burgess, D'Brian Cross, Ian Morgan, Charlie Pride, Ramone Wilkins, Carlin Jackson, Quentin Pope, Brandon Edwards, Willie Pope, Charles Harris: tenor; Reginald Bowens, Robert Grant, Jordan Shores, Joél Tucker, Caleb Wright: bass.


    Producer: Alex Ariff; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon, Senior Director of NPR Music, Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Recording engineers: Bruce Gigax, David Pietk.

    Copyright 2022 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    Nate Chinen
    [Copyright 2024 WRTI Your Classical and Jazz Source]
    Alex Ariff