Terence Blanchard, a trumpeter of unimpeachable virtuosity and pedigree, will bring a daring, modernist band to Nighttown next Wednesday and Thursday. Blanchard is touring behind Flow, his second Blue Note album; it will be his first appearance in Cleveland since January 2004, when he delivered a singularly uninspired Jazz on the Circle concert at the Cleveland Museum of Art. His new disc, however, suggests that more inspiration may be on hand this time.
Produced by Herbie Hancock, Flow is a loose collection of tunes spanning African rhythm, jubilee horns, and electronica. Sparked by the bony, propulsive drums of Kendrick Scott, the occasional vocal, and the glassy guitar of Lionel Loueke, the album is unexpectedly dramatic. While Blanchard's ideas don't always develop into full melodies, his gift for atmosphere is undeniable. This isn't conventional jazz, what with its synth programming, odd voicings, and eerie textures -- which make Flow even more compelling.
Since his days with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, New Orleans native Blanchard has been adventurous, and his film scores, primarily for Spike Lee, have been colorful and expressive. Let's hope he and his young, gifted band serve up sets as intriguing and easy-running as his latest album.