Hearing Terence Blanchard in a room of about 150 heightens what is already a super attenuated musical experience. One that brings all senses to the fore and excites the brain. Such was the first of 2 intimate nights at The Mint last week, where the New Orleans native was touring in support of his latest project, Magnetic (Blue Note Records).
The ensemble of Blanchard on trumpet, Brice Winston on sax, Fabian Almazan on piano, Joshua Crumbly on bass and Justin Brown on drums came through town about a year ago and their annual swing this year was eagerly anticipated. Blanchard is a generous bandleader, and he often stepped aside for extended explorations by his bandmates. Pianist Almazan, in particular, shined throughout the set, and especially on his own “Pet Step Sitters Theme Song” (from Magnetic). Teasing the theme out of a prolonged and elegant solo intro,, Blanchard himself used electronic effects (octave dividers and filters), not to obscure, but to add emotional color and passion to his runs, often to thrilling ends. The 21-year old Crumbly has been playing with Blanchard since he was a wee lad (or at least his teens), no small feat, and the assured and intuitive interplay of Winston with Blanchard and his mates runs deep. Drummer Brown, pushed and meshed at a higher level, as you would expect for a player who has toured with Ambrose Akinmusire and recorded with many young jazz luminaries (Blanchard himself said he can’t even wrap his head around some of the ideas Brown comes up with). Blanchard was affable throughout the set, at one point chiding the LA crowd for giving Brown’s hometown of Oakland a warm reception after coming from a gig in the Bay Area where the regional affection was not really mutual. This was a stellar evening of music all around. Truly magnetic.