Jazz against violence
Trumpeter-composer Terence Blanchard brings his electric band to Davis to defend black lives.
Trumpeter-composer Terence Blanchard didn’t set out to make his new band a protest group. But stuff happens. Bad stuff—and musicians are as much a part of the world as anyone else. Perhaps they are even more in the world than most as they travel from city to city across the country and around the world.
Blanchard’s band the E-Collective consciously pulled music from its upcoming album Live (releases April 20) from performances in communities that have experienced trauma between law enforcement and African-American citizens. Minneapolis (where Philando Castile was shot on July 6, 2016); Cleveland (where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot on November 22, 2014); and Dallas (where police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patricio Zamarripa were assassinated during a Black Lives Matter protest on July 7-8, 2016).
The band has said they condemn gun violence of any kind.
The E-Collective performs at the Mondavi Center on Friday, April 20. Coming to Davis with the Stephon Clark shooting still so raw in the community puts the band back in another emotional cauldron.
“Events were just overcoming all of us,” Blanchard said from his home in New York. “The music we created for the Live tour was not just a reaction, but also a means by which we could try to help people deal with their frustration.”
Blanchard, a four-time Grammy winner, formed the group in 2015 to explore a more contemporary electric sound than he had with with previous acoustic based ensembles. E-Collective consists of Blanchard on trumpet, Fabian Almazan on piano and synthesizers, Charles Altura on guitar, Oscar Seaton on drums, and David Ginyard on bass.
Their first album “Breathless” referenced the death of Eric Garner, who was choked by police officer Daniel Pantaleo on July 17, 2014. The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide.
Blanchard told a story about being approached after an E-Collective concert by an audience member who said he thought the music sounded “angry.” The man was fan of Blanchard’s score for the Spike Lee documentary A Tale of God’s Will: A Requiem for Katrina.
“I just thought I was frustrated with the lack of action with all these officers shooting people and feeling no consequences,” Blanchard said. Then the man said that when Blanchard explained to the audience what the music was about—it made perfect sense. Then the man said he was going to go home and rethink his ideas on gun control, and Blanchard was speechless.
“The mere power of that energy is what touched his heart,” Blanchard said.
Blanchard, a studied jazz historian, understands the continuing political history of the music. From Joe Oliver and Louis Armstrong through artists like Max Roach, Elvin Jones and Art Blakey, there has been an underlying and then overt social consciousness.
“Both groups were playing music on a higher level,” he said, “and the mere creation of it was a subversive act against societal norms.”