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Terence Blanchard – Breathless

Terence Blanchard

Terence Blanchard’s – Breathless – leaves me just that way!


One of the  albums that has spent considerable time in my music rotation over the last few weeks is Breathless the latest release from Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective. Terence Blanchard’s music career started in the 1980s first touring with Lionel Hampton and then replacing Wynton Marsalis in Art Blakey‘s Jazz Messengers. Since then he has been a prominent force in the jazz community.with 5 career Grammys out of his 13 career Grammy nominations, Terence has released twenty albums since his debut in 1984. Blanchard has probably reached his widest audience through his work as a film composer. His trumpet can be heard on nearly fifty film scores; with more than forty of the films scores were composed by Blanchard. As if all that was not enough to do, since 2000, Blanchard has served as Artistic Director at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.and in August of 2011, he was named the Artistic Director of the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami Frost School of Music! Some people can do it all!.

Throughout the majority of his career Terence Blanchard has been recognized  as a straight-ahead artist in the hard bop tradition but has recently developed an African-fusion style of playing. i believe that his unique style has been fully developed in Breathless. Back in the 70s one of my favorite jazz albums was Miles DavisBitches Brew, Breathless has captured me the same way that album did, The two tracks I love are “See Me As I Am” and :”Everglades” with the later really reminding me of Miles!

The inspiration for Breathless was the killing of Eric Garner  by New York City police officers.  Blanchard decided to put together an album using Garner’s death as the focus. To help with the album he surrounded himself with some young and hungry talent including:: drummer Oscar Seaton, keyboardist Fabian Almazan, bassist Donald Ramsey, guitarist Charles Altura. The album’s title Breathless was based on Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe.”

Blanchard explained in a Cuepoint blog:

“That chant has become a very poignant message, creating a very powerful metaphor that explains a lot about how a certain segment of our society feels right now,”  “If you think this is a minority, a small crowd of disgruntled citizens, you have no idea what’s coming down the road. To see the reports that came out of Ferguson, to see a police department deliberately target people in a country that puts ‘the land of the free’ on everything it can print. You know it’s a lie. It feels like every week there’s another YouTube video going viral of police brutality, or civil rights being sent back to the 1800s.

Breathless is my attempt to draw more attention to that. This is our E-Collective version of a protest album, without the firebrand lyrics of Phil Ochs, but in mood and purpose. Much in the same way John Coltrane’s tune ‘Alabama’ captured the immense pain and suffering of a nation as it mourned the death of those four little girls lost in the firebombing of that Birmingham Church. Coltrane’s melody made me cry and made me feel the hurt of an event that happened decades before, when I was too young to understand what the hell was really going on. As well, there’s Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Power of Soul’ as another example. That track holds the cries of that generation who wanted desperately to move away from war, racism and sexism. You can feel Hendrix’s lyric — ‘with the power of soul, anything is possible’ — rippling through Breathless as an undercurrent.” Read more at AXS

You can watch  Terence Blanchard discuss his inspiration for Breathless here

Bottom Line: Terence Blanchard’s Breathless is an amazing album and may well be my favorite jazz album of 2015. The tracks are all consistently interesting with Blanchard’s trumpet setting just the right tone throughout each track! Sometimes the beginning of an album sets the tone for the whole album and with the great Les McCann and Eddie Harris Harris’ “Compared to What” leading off, followed by :”See Me As ‘I Am” and “Everglades” a great tone is set and the high tone and quality doesn’t stop until the closing tracks :”Cosmic Warrior” and “Midnight” So Check t Out!!

P.S. anyone who mentions Phil Ochs is tops in my book!!

Here’s is a live Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective performance of “Everglades”  I know it’s long – just turn down the lights and drift…….