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Terence Blanchard, in the Jazz 'Flow'

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ED GORDON, host:

Jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard proclaims that musically speaking, he's born again. The 43-year-old recently found new inspiration with five musicians a generation younger than he. In the tradition of Miles Davis and Art Blakey, Blanchard has selected an ensemble of young proteges to cook up a unique sound. His new CD is called "Flow." I found out that when Blanchard was looking for a producer for this project, he knew there was really only one man for the job, the great jazz master, Herbie Hancock.

Mr. TERENCE BLANCHARD (Musician): I look at these guys in my band as being like really visionaries. They're trying to push the envelope and they're trying to do some different things, and Herbie seemed to be the only person that came to mind who could guide us through the process of getting all of this stuff down on tape. And usually...

GORDON: Did you see that in the sense that Herbie Hancock for years had been in front of the curve that had done that kind of thing, pushed the envelope as far as jazz is concerned?

Mr. BLANCHARD: Exactly. I mean, he's been through it a number of times. He knows where the pitfalls are. He knows basically how to just free yourself from yourself, in a sense, and it opened us up to try a lot of different things and just be experimental in the studio.

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Unidentified Man: ...(Unintelligible).

Mr. BLANCHARD: I just wanted to make sure that these guys were fully represented, you know, in terms of their vision and their talent. And it's a lot of fun. I liken it to, you know, the old Lakers basketball team with Magic and Worthy and all of those guys...

GORDON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BLANCHARD: ...because one of the things about that team that I love is it was hard to defend that team because if Worthy was on that night, he got the ball all night, you know. If Byron Scott was on, that night he got the ball all night. So everything would shift, night to night, and that's how this band operates.

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Group of People: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).

GORDON: Terence, one of the things that I found interesting is when we first heard the name `Terence Blanchard,' much of what was put in front of that was this young kid on the scene, this new maestro. Now it's being mentioned that your band is young and you're kind of the veteran, the old guy of this group. How do you feel about that, man? It obviously speaks to a great career you've had, though.

Mr. BLANCHARD: No, it does, but I'm not digging that at all.

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GORDON: Particularly at 43, right?

Mr. BLANCHARD: I mean, really. You know what I mean? No, but it's cool. I mean, it's just--I'm looking at the whole situation feeling very blessed to have these guys in my band. You know, it's one of those things. I've been in this business enough to see things come and go, and you start to realize when something like this comes along, when a group of musicians like this come together to form a unit like this, I'm just trying to appreciate every moment of it because you know it's not going to last forever.

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GORDON: Now you're teaching as you have been taught. I mean, you played with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and I know, just standing next to Blakey and, you know, those that played in that group was an education. Are you now in turn...

Mr. BLANCHARD: Ooh, ...(unintelligible).

GORDON: ...teaching the same way you were taught?

Mr. BLANCHARD: Let me just put it this way. The guys in my band, they get tired of the Art Blakey stories because I'm always drawing parallels. You know, sometimes I feel like, you know, Malcolm X--when you would hear Malcolm X talk about Elijah--`The Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that.' You know, I would always say, `Well, man, you know, Art Blakey, you know, would always tell us, "You don't speak below people, you don't speak above them; you speak right to them,"' just little things like that.

And one of the things that I feel kind of like a responsibility to do is just tell these guys the things that have been passed on to me, you know, because I look at them coming to the business wide-eyed, with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of talent and they want to learn. And, you know, it's an interesting thing, you know, because sometimes their learning process becomes a testing process. I mean, you have that male bravado thing; it can cause tension. But me being the age that I am now, I have to realize that's just, you know, young guys flexing. And when we sit down and really talk about issues, I really start to understand that these guys really just want to learn. They want to have experiences that mean something to them, that open their eyes to new possibilities, because when we have these conversations, these guys take certain things that I have passed on to them and they just run with it and come up with all of these fantastic ideas in terms of composition and, you know, styles of playing.

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GORDON: That style, albeit with a lot of help from your band members and, of course, the great Herbie Hancock, can be heard on the latest CD, and that's entitled--or titled, "Flow." And we should note the Jazztimes and many others have said that this is one of the best in an already distinguished career.

Terence Blanchard, we want to thank you for your time today.

Mr. BLANCHARD: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Ed. I really appreciate this.

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GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program for today. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

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GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.