Trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard continues the conversation on violence between law enforcement and African American citizens that he addressed musically and philosophically on his 2015 Grammy-nominated album Breathless. This time out, Blanchard, along with his E-Collective, which includes returning members pianist and synthesizer musician Fabian Almazan, guitarist Charles Altura, drummer Oscar Seaton and newcomer bassist David “DJ” Ginyard, made his point by performing live at three locations—in Minnesota, Cleveland and Dallas—where engagements between police and the citizenry led to the death of unarmed innocents. While Blanchard has said he had no intention of making the E-Collective a protest band, he wasn’t able to ignore that mindsets have changed little since Eric Garner uttered his last words, “I can’t breathe” to a New York City police officer, which inspired Breathless.
While one might presume that the mood of the music might convey anger, Blanchard’s horn, which is frequently synthesized, often pleads rather than shouts. As is heard on the disc’s first cut, “Hannibal,” the piano’s delicacy also lends itself to a theme of hope and reconciliation.
The lovely, simple yet moving single notes of the guitar and Blanchard’s lyrical blowing on “Unchanged” seem to communicate a feeling of lament and ask the question, “Why?”
Following much applause from an obviously attentive and appreciative audience, Blanchard and the E-Collective close with “Choices,” which expresses the option of serenity over rage in curing the seemingly incurable hatred and distrust that now prevails in the nation and the world. As delivered by this hugely talented group of musicians both individually and collectively, serene does not translate into a lack of powerful emotions in their playing. An undercurrent of frustration prevails here and throughout the album.
Having such a vital theme and being performed in concert settings, Live shares a strong resemblance to a suite of music, as did Breathless. They stand together in purpose and passion.
Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective plays Jazz Fest on Sunday, May 6 in the WWOZ Jazz Tent at 4:05 p.m.