On first consideration, the job requirements for a jazz musician and a film composer seem incompatible. One of jazz's core values is improvisation -- the ability to react and create in the moment -- whereas the sheer logistic scale and scheduling requirements of film composing place a premium on detailed planning. Jazzmen most often work with small ensembles of like-minded individuals, but in the supremely collaborative medium of film, a composer must marshal dozens of musicians from dissimilar backgrounds, all the while interacting with directors, editors and others from completely different disciplines. Many jazz musicians have written a film score or two. Some, such as Quincy Jones and St. Louis native Oliver Nelson, have made successful careers of it. But no one on the current scene straddles both camps with more assurance than trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard.
A New Orleans native, Blanchard was plagued early on by facile comparisons to Wynton Marsalis: Both were trumpet phenoms who wore nice suits, apprenticed with Art Blakey and made music recalling the modernist hard bop pioneered by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Then, in 1990, Blanchard hooked up with Spike Lee, contributing to Mo' Better Blues and getting his first real scoring job on Lee's Malcolm X biopic. Since then, he's collaborated regularly with Lee, Kasi Lemmons and other filmmakers, producing scores at a prodigious rate -- he's done five this year, including music for the hit comedy Barbershop. Blanchard's recent recordings include a Grammy-winning album of his own compositions and thematic albums devoted to Brazilian music, the songs of Jimmy McHugh and music from other jazzmen who wrote for film. Look for his Sheldon concert to be a welcome respite from the rigors of the studio, featuring hard-charging small-group workouts of Blanchard's own tunes, spiced with a few choice covers and lots of solo space for everyone.