20 Questions: Terence Blanchard

With more than 29 albums to his credit, Terence Blanchard has established himself as one of the most influential jazz musicians and film score composers of his generation. Blanchard’s new album, Choices was released in August. The cerebral, soulful, three-time Grammy award winning trumpet player and composer is about to go on tour in South Korea and Brazil, and will return to the States at the end of September, where the lucky people among us will be able to catch him in Austin, Chicago, DC and NYC. But before boarding that plane he talks with PopMatters 20 Questions about how our turbulent, dynamic world inspires his beautiful music.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Revolutionary Road. The thing about that movie that was so touching was the inevitability of the calamity of his life given his lack of faith in his abilities and his chances to succeed. The movie made me think of the times when I doubted my own abilities, thus it made me understand the importance of having conviction and believing in yourself – this is the seed to success.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Fred Sanford because my wife says that I’m a junk collector, but I say I’m a collector of fine antiques. In the midst of all of Fred’s turmoil, he still finds a way to laugh.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Miles Davis’ Porgy and Bess. It symbolizes everything that is great about this country and what it means to be an artist. To see two great minds from separate backgrounds, Miles Davis and Gil Evans, come together and create something so beautiful and lasting is a strong testament to how all of us can come together to create a better environment for us and for our kids. Davis and Evans are the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird of the Jazz World, making each other rise to the occasion.

Terence Blanchard

Album: Choices

Label: Concord

US Release Date: 2009-08-18

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/b/blanchard-choices-cover.jpg4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

I have to pick Star Wars because of the great brass writing in the score by John Williams, not because of the fact that it is George Lucas’ film and he is producing the next movie I’m scoring.

5. Your ideal brain food?

What sustains me is how to take what happens in my world or in society and identify it musically and bring those various elements together to create something that is meaningful and memorable in an effort to show how various cultures can come together.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I’m proud of my children because I’ve been blessed to have very smart and creative kids with great personalities.

7. You want to be remembered for…?

I want to be remembered for taking the time to smell the roses after having planted the seeds in areas that may have been fruitful, but needed tending.

Terence Blanchard

Album: A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina)

Label: Blue Note

US Release Date: 2007-08-14

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/b/blanchard-godswill-cover.jpg8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Miles Davies, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Live at the Plugged Nickel (Miles Davis). That album demonstrates what courage truly is. To be able to express oneself in such a unique manner while going against the grain of normalcy inspires me daily not to be afraid of the unknown.

10. Your hidden talents…?

I can be funny… and athletic. Hidden talents? That’s it!

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Always speak the truth to an audience. Never speak above them or below them. These were profound words given to me by Art Blakey.

Terence Blanchard

Album: Flow

Label: Blue Note

US Release Date: 2005-06-07

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/b/blanchard-flow-cover.jpg12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

I would have to say my first trumpet. The mere sight of it excited me in a way that has never left me.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?


14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Garland Robinette, Michael Bent, Andre Perry, Wade Doucette, Kenny Bordelon, and David Francis, all people except two who have never been in the public eye, but have a meaningful place in my life.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I would like to go back to the ‘60s to see all of the things that were happening in this country, good and bad, which gave us such great art. There were so many artists from different backgrounds, but when you reflect on the period there was a distinct movement that had a definite signature.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

A spa vacation with a boxing gym.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?

Vodka… good vodka.

Photo (partial) by ©Shannon Brinkman

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

City… in the southern part of the United States.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Never lie to me. Always tell me the truth so that I can make an honest and informed decision about whether I would re-elect your butt or not.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Touring my new CD, Choices. I’m getting ready to go to Korea and Brazil.

When I return, I will begin working on Red Tails, a film about the Tuskegee Airmen, directed by Anthony Hemingway and produced by George Lucas.

I also have a few other creative projects that are in the works for my hometown of New Orleans.