Article and pictures by Ernest Barteldes
Terence Blanchard & E-Collective
Summerstage at Clove Lakes Park
Staten Island, NY
August 5, 2016
On an evening dedicated to the memory of Eric Garner, the Staten Island African-American dad killed while in police custody (members of his family were in attendance) in 2014 there were a handful of performers and activists on stage before the headlining artist went on stage – including a young woman who did a spoken word piece on police violence and the consequences it has on the different communities around the nation and a statement by New York City Councilwoman Debbie Rose.
Shortly after that Terence Blanchard came on stage backed by a quartet (bass, keys, drums, guitar) starting with the complex title piece from his album “Breathless” – entirely recorded in tribute to Garner – that included a four-part harmony on his synth trumpet. The piece was very contemporary and pretty much centered on his instrument – he had little connection with the audience and didn’t seem interested on their feedback – something he seemed to be focused on doing for the entire evening.
The pieces went from contemporary jazz to jazz-rock but with no New Orleans connection – something I had hoped to hear that night considering the bandleader’s roots. The band was incredibly well-rehearsed and tight but seemed unable to connect except for one moment when the guitarist really rocked out and had the audience applauding. Blanchard used a lot of effects on his trumpet and sometimes drowned out the band entirely as he experimented with the various extraneous sounds he was able to create with his horn.
This was an evening of hard jazz – probably a bit off for a park on Staten Island, but I guess audiences need to be taken out of their comfort zones at times. I did not expect to hear this kind of music there, but I did enjoy it at times.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that Blanchard is a fantastically talented musician, but from what I have been listening live over the years he seems to have become one of these jazz cats who play at the peak of their intellectuality and technique and not seem to care about fans. Then again, being this a concert in memory of a victim of police brutality maybe the tone was appropriate – but most of the audience was not aware of that)
It was not a bad show overall, but it was not what I was expecting to hear. He barely communicated with the crowd, and when he did he seemed a bit uncomfortable doing so. A show clearly aimed at jazz purists or those interested in really out there material – suitable for a club or a jazz festival. Another reviewer focused on the social part of the evening, but I’d rather look at the music on its own.