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It’s not a sad record. It’s just a truthful record and the truth about New Orleans has

a lot of sadness in it. But we’re survivors. One way or another.

We’re going to survive until we die. That’s in this music too.

 

 

Terence Blanchard CDs

 

Talk To Me Soundtrack  / A Tale of God's Will  / Inside Man   / Flow / Jazz in Film Music from Mo' Better Blues

 

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Terence Blanchard: "Ghost of Congo Square"

Breath of Life Music Commentary by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya Salaam

This moment must be seen, has to be seen by those people around the world who don’t know what has happened here.

What is happening here. Yes. Still.—Terence Blanchard

 

Terence has sneaked up on me when I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention. I’ve known him for a long time. Literally. Always knew he was talented. Always kind of liked him whenever I heard him but never really went out of my way to dig his music. Didn’t have to; what with all the soundtrack music he was doing he was kind of in my ears a lot even when I wasn’t paying a lot of attention.

Like when he scored that Don Cheadle movie Talk To Me. My wife Nia and I are usually among the last to leave as we tend to watch until the credits stop rolling. At the end of Talk To Me there was Me’Shell Ndegeocello doing a version of “Compared To What” in her own immediately recognizable style (available on the Talk To Me Soundtrack).

When Me’Shell starts that talk-singing she does, a slow roll over a funky rhythm, she immediately gets your attention like when an intimate whispers some wonderfully nasty stuff into your earhole, so close to you, you can feel their breath on your skin.

Moreover, even uptempo Me’Shell sounds like she’s on a slow roll, not like she drawls or anything but more like she’s too cool to rush. Anyway, soon as I heard her I sat back and my ears perked up. Then the trumpet solo started and I kind of liked it. By the end of the song I was smiling. The credits told me Terence had done the music. I said: alright, that’s cool.

Now Terence’s new album is out. His Katrina album. I’m hooked. My brother Kenneth, who is a business owner, business administrator, but most importantly a New Orleans trumpet player, has been trying to hip me to Terence. Kenneth is right, Terence is terrible—and I mean that in a good way.

I’ve got a moving van full of mixed feelings about living in New Orleans post-Katrina. I’ve heard all kinds of Katrina tributes, memorials, dedications, raps, whoops, hollers and what not. But this is the first one that hits me in the place where my rueful confusion mates with an almost cynical sadness; the place where hope gets slapped around, violently, by reality; the place where I see so much wrong and right looks like an almost insignificant sliver of wood I’m grabbing at to keep from going under. And there ain’t much right going down; just enough to keep us alive if we swim real fast, real hard and don’t give up. I guess you’d have to be here to understand.

I try not to linger too long in my interior emotional rooms; when you focus too much on our current reality, well, it can scare you, i.e., you can scare yourself. Usually I stick to the places we’ve been fixing up, the places where the lights work and the water works and nobody is shooting and sometimes there is even laughter; the place where a lot of the young people are. But it’s like trying to stay awake to avoid nightmares. Sooner or later you fall asleep, and when you do, reality mugs you.

A Tale of God's Will is almost hypnotic. It will make you see and hear and feel things that are not there. Old New Orleans is not here anymore. Genuine joy only passes through at a fast clip, touching down for but the briefest of moments.

But there is also a strength here. The strength of holding on even it’s only a straw’s worth of good times keeping us afloat. We be some water-treading motherfuckers.

If you put this recording on and turn out the lights, you will get an inkling of what I’m talking about. There are upful moments but there is also a deep recognition of the dark that is tainted by the ashes of despair. A recognition of how much has been damaged, lost, destroyed. It’s two years later and we still have more houses unrepaired than we have homes that have been fixed up. Less than half of the flooded areas have been put back on their feet. Much less than half.

This music captures that.

It’s not a sad record. It’s just a truthful record and the truth about New Orleans has a lot of sadness in it. But we’re survivors. One way or another. We’re going to survive until we die. That’s in this music too.

Terence is a bad somebody.

Terence’s trumpet sound is bitter-sweet. A tart tone that is both rich and restrained. His sound is big, round and fat even when he does the grace notes and half valve effects. Even as he glisses upward on selected notes, or bends and bops across the drum rhythms. His sound might be clear-eyed but you can tell he has cried a lot. You’d have to have been raised here to see what we see when we look at the way New Orleans is now ‘cause we don’t just see now, we also see then.

Terence has been looking closely at our city. So, that’s one thing you notice the beauty of his trumpet work on an intimate level. You never get the feeling he is showing off for anyone. In fact sometimes it even sounds like we’re eavesdropping on a man talking to himself, or praying to a god for understanding of why this disaster was allowed to happen.


I like all of Terence’s trumpet solos on this record. No, that’s not quite right—it’s not even much about liking or disliking. I feel all of the trumpet solos.  I have felt what he is playing.

Terence also got some Jelly Roll Morton in him. I’m referring to the tradition of New Orleans composers. Born March 13, 1962, Terence started playing piano at age five and spent a number of years studying with Roger Dickerson, a New Orleans composer who wrote classical music and also played solo jazz and pop piano in hotels.

Terence is a top drawer composer but he works his compositional magic in the background, probably as a result of doing so many film scores. He is undoubtedly the leading black composer of Hollywood film soundtracks. No young musician (’young’ for New Orleans musicians equals under fifty) is even close to Terence’s current accomplishments in that arena—Terence has composed 41 film scores! Clearly Terence has truly learned to establish moods, evoke emotions. All the techniques and understandings Terence garnered from his film-scoring career is employed on A Tale of God's Will.

The line up is: Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Brice Winston: tenor and soprano saxophones; Aaron Parks: piano; Derrick Hodge: acoustic and electric basses; Zach Harmon: tabla and the happy apple; The Northwest Sinfonia conducted by Terence Blanchard; Simon James: contractor and concertmaster.

I really appreciate how seamless this record sounds. Parts of it feature Terence’s jazz combo. Parts of it are suffused with strings. Four of the tracks were written by different members of Terence’s combo. You’d be hard pressed to tell one composer from another even though there is a wide stylistic variety from track to track. It’s all in the arranging touch—which is what Jelly Roll was also a master of. Terence can start with one sound and before the song is over included a whole orchestra and then end up with a trumpet solo, or some other mix of sounds, and it not only makes sense it just seems to fuse into a smooth wholeness. 

None of this music sounds like what most non-New Orlenians think of when one says New Orleans music. All this music sounds like what New Orleans looks like two years after Katrina. Terence has nailed it down not by focusing on what was but instead by invoking what is and what is (as we say in New Orleans slang) ain’t nothing nice.

New Orleans has a strong Roman Catholic tradition and in that tradition a requiem is a Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead. Terence is not just for the souls of the individuals who died but also a plangent lament for the soul of a city struggling hard to survive. This is more than whatever people generally mean when they say music. This is a religious experience that even a pagan like me can appreciate.

Some of this music was written specifically for and used in Spike Lee’s New Orleans documentary, When The Levees Broke. It’s almost like Terence shot another documentary, and I guess, truth be told, Terence did make his own movie. His eyeballs was his camera. His heart the screen room. And from the very breath of his body he exhaled the soundtrack. This is A Tale of God’s Will as Terence is my witness. Amen, my brother, amen.
—Kalamu ya Salaam

 

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I really feel it       

As soon as I heard "Mantra" I knew I was going to like this. The tone is . . . Well, Kalamu described it well. I really like that Terrence didn’t go for this whole ultra-dramatic, sorrowful, the-world-is-ending vibe. At the same time, he didn’t do the ‘I’m ridiculously optimistic and we’re going to be A-OK’ thing either. This music sounds like good advice from an elder. Like the kind of thing that doesn’t necessarily overwhelm you in the moment, but as time passes, becomes more and more significant.

The only criticism I have for the pieces is that some of them seem to work only at the beginning. Every one of them grabs me at the beginning, but some of them eventually seem to meander. I’m sure some of that is the nature of the beast—it’s soundtrack music; perhaps not intended to be listened to in and of itself. But there are other times when the music just carries me, and I really feel it all the way to the end. (By the way, why is "Ghost Of 1927" so short? That was one shaping up to be my favorite selection.)

Oh, and uh, the Meshell is fantastic. (Sometimes I feel dumb when I compliment Meshell’s work because I do it so often. Just type her name in our search box and you’ll see what I mean.) Meshell is a specialist at making a familiar lyric sound mysterious. I came away from her reading of "Compared To What," a song that has been covered more than a few times too many, feeling like I’d just heard it for the first time.

—Mtume ya Salaam

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Just a reminder         

Mtume, don’t forget some of the music is taken from the soundtrack for Spike’s documentary and thus was made to fit a specific length, which could have been short or stretched out long. And just for clarity’s sake: "Mantra" may have been the first song of this batch to pop up on your I-Pod, but "Mantra" is not the first song of the album.

And as for Meshell, I’m going to quote P-Funk: "Badddddd, the girl is baddddddd!!!!"

—Kalamu

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
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#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

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#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 7 October 2007

 

 

 

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