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Terence Blanchard brilliantly continues his life-long exploration of jazz on his latest release. As one would expect of a musician of his caliber, broad experience, talent and passion, the trumpeter, composer and arranger brings his all to every work. On this, his return to the Blue Note label, Blanchard, 51, teams with longtime collaborators saxophonist Brice Winston and drummer Kendrick Scott and again with Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan, who debuted with Blanchard’s band on the trumpeter’s Grammy winning album, A Tale of God’s Will, plus newcomer, 21-year-old bassist Joshua Crumbly.
As always, Blanchard remains generous to his younger, very able crew both in playing time and by offering each member the opportunity to contribute compositions to the endeavor. (That philosophy stems back to the trumpeter’s years with the legendary drummer Art Blakey.) However, there is never a doubt who leads this session for when Blanchard’s imaginative horn steps in with its bright tone, sublime slurs and notes that reach the stratosphere, he is master.
Defining the music on Magnetic—well, yes it’s jazz—must be left up to each listener as the journey moves in many directions sometimes within a single song. The strong syncopation of the opening title cut suggests movement and that energy continues throughout the rest of the album. Blanchard’s “Don’t Run” has a taste of his hometown of New Orleans particularly with its lively atmosphere and the interchange between his trumpet and the soprano sax of guest Ravi Coltrane.
Blanchard takes a leap into a spacey place on “Hallucinations” altering his horn with electronics that gives it a guitar-like sound. He also uses the device on Amazan’s “Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song,” that opens with the pianist giving the tune an almost classical feel. Then again, Kendrick’s “No Borders Just Horizon,” begins with a drum roll, heads to Africa tonally and percussively and becomes orchestral in nature.
Magnetic is serious jazz music that through its spirit and the artists’ vivid execution is able to instigate a smile and even a laugh.