Born in 1962 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Terence Oliver Blanchard grew up the only child of Wilhelmina and Joseph Oliver Blanchard. His father, who worked as a manager at an insurance company and sang opera, started his son on piano lessons at age five. By age eight, he'd switched to the trumpet and was soon playing alongside childhood friend Wynton Marsalis at summer band camps. As a teenager, he took music classes at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts with Roger Dickerson and Ellis Marsalis. After high school, Blanchard studied under Paul Jeffrey and Bill Fielder at Rutgers University in New Jersey, a period that also found him touring with Lionel Hampton's orchestra. In 1982, Blanchard joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, taking over the trumpet chair from Wynton Marsalis, who had recommended him for the job. Blanchard toured with Blakey for several years, eventually becoming the band's musical director before leaving in 1986. Also during the '80s, he co-led a sophisticated quintet with New Orleans saxophonist Donald Harrison that was modeled after Miles Davis' groups of the late '60s. Together, they recorded a handful of albums for Concord, Columbia, and Evidence, including 1983's New York Second Line, 1984's Discernment, and 1988's Black Pearl.
In the '90s, Blanchard came into his own as a leader, recording for the Columbia label and issuing albums like 1992's Terence Blanchard and 1993's Simply Stated. These albums found him balancing his love of the New Orleans jazz and bop traditions with his own increasingly distinctive and progressive compositional voice. Other albums, like 1994's minor-tinged The Billie Holiday Songbook, 1996's The Heart Speaks with singer/composer Ivan Lins, and 1999's orchestral-leaning Jazz in Film showcased his broad stylistic palette.
During this period, he developed a fruitful working relationship with director Spike Lee. Having first played on the soundtracks to several of Lee's films, including Mo' Better Blues and Do the Right Thing, Blanchard then composed the music for many of Lee's subsequent films, including Jungle Fever, Malcom X, Clockers, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour, Inside Man, and the Hurricane Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke for HBO.
In the fall of 2000, Blanchard was named artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Keeping up with his love of live performance and touring, Blanchard also maintained a regular studio presence, delivering albums like 2000's Wandering Moon, 2001's Let's Get Lost, and 2003's Bounce. Produced by pianist Herbie Hancock, 2005's Flow received two Grammy nominations. Also in 2005, Blanchard was part of pianist McCoy Tyner's ensemble that won the Grammy in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category for Illuminations. The trumpeter also took home the Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for 2007's A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina). By April of 2007, the Monk Institute announced its Commitment to New Orleans initiative, which included the relocation of the program to the campus of Loyola University in New Orleans, spearheaded by Blanchard.
Signing with Concord Jazz in 2009, he released Choices -- recorded at the Ogden Museum of Art in Blanchard's hometown -- at the end of that summer. Two years later, he paid tribute to the innovative Afro-Cuban recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo by teaming up with Latin jazz percussionist Poncho Sanchez for the studio album Chano y Dizzy! The following year, Blanchard returned to his film work by scoring the soundtrack to director George Lucas' WWII action-drama Red Tails. Also that year, music business legend Don Was brought the trumpeter back to Blue Note Records. Blanchard's first offering for the label was 2013's Magnetic, an album that showcased a new quintet and guest appearances by Ron Carter and labelmates Lionel Loueke and Ravi Coltrane.
In 2015, Blanchard followed up once again on Blue Note with the electric fusion- and R&B-infused Breathless. Featuring backing from Blanchard's band the E-Collective, the album also included contributions from vocalist PJ Morton. Returning to film work, he supplied the original score for director Taylor Hackford's 2017 film Comedian. Joining Blanchard on the soundtrack were pianist Kenny Barron, tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, alto saxophonist Khari Allen Lee, bassist David Pulphus, and drummer Carl Allen. In 2018, Blanchard was named a USA Fellow, and composed the score to Spike Lee's film BlacKkKlansman, which won him a Grammy Award. He also released the concert album Live with his E-Collective. Returning to film work, Blanchard scored the 2019 Harriet Tubman biopic Harriet, along with another Lee film, Da 5 Bloods, in 2020. Other soundtracks from that year included One Night in Miami and the first season of HBO's Perry Mason series. In 2021, the trumpeter was back with his E-Collective for Absence, a tribute to Wayne Shorter that also featured contributions from the Turtle Island Quartet. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi
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