TERENCE BLANCHARD is a straight-ahead artist in the hard bop tradition but has recently utilized an African-fusion style of playing that makes him unique from other trumpeters. It is as a film composer that Blanchard reaches his widest audience – his trumpet can be heard on nearly fifty film scores; more than forty bear his unmistakable compositional style.
Blanchard began playing piano at the age of five and then the trumpet at age eight after hearing Alvin Alcorn play. Blanchard played trumpet recreationally alongside childhood friend Wynton Marsalis in summer music camps but showed no real proficiency on the instrument. Then, while in high school, he began studying at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts under Roger Dickerson and Ellis Marsalis, Jr. In 1982, Wynton Marsalis recommended Blanchard to replace him in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and until 1986, Blanchard was the band’s trumpeter and musical director. With Blakey and as co-leader of a quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison and pianist Mulgrew Miller, Blanchard rose to prominence as a key figure in the 1980s Jazz Resurgence. The Harrison/Blanchard group recorded five albums from 1984-1988 until Blanchard left to pursue a solo career in 1990.
He recorded his self-titled debut for Columbia Records which reached third on the Billboard Jazz Charts. After performing on soundtracks for Spike Lee movies, including Do the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues, Lee wanted Blanchard to compose the scores for his films beginning with “Jungle Fever”. Blanchard has written the score for every Spike Lee film since including, Malcolm X, Clockers, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour, Inside Man.
All the while, Blanchard has remained true to his jazz roots as a trumpeter and bandleader on the performance circuit. He has recorded several award-winning albums for Columbia, Sony Classical and Blue Note Records, including Flow, which was produced by pianist Herbie Hancock and received two Grammy Award nominations.
His 2001 Let’s Get Lost was his most commercially successful album to date. It features new arrangements of classic songs written by Jimmy McHugh and performed by his own quintet along with the leading ladies of jazz vocals: Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves, and Cassandra Wilson.
Blanchard was part of the ensemble that won a 2005 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for his participation on McCoy Tyner’s Illuminations, an award he shared with Tyner, Gary Bartz, Christian McBride and Lewis Nash. In the 2009 Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog, Blanchard played all of the alligator Louis’ trumpet parts. He also voiced the role of Earl the bandleader in the riverboat band.