For those fans who recall trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s 1980′s stint as one of the young lions of the Jazz Messengers, it has been extra-gratifying watching him develop into a bandleading mentor and starmaker in his own right. Tonight, as on his striking 2013 album, Magnetic, he’ll have three more emerging players in his midst: the rhythm section of pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Joshua Crumbly and drummer Kendrick Scott.
But of course the names that make this appearance one of the festival’s most eagerly awaited belong to Blanchard and his Blue Note labelmates up front: saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, who on his own terms has established himself as an important innovator, and Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke, whose unique blend of electronically enhanced jazz guitar and African roots music inspired New York Times critic Jon Pareles to call him “a gentle virtuoso.” (A former student of Blanchard’s at the Thelonious Monk Institute, Loueke is another of his protégés.)
Known for his film scores, many of them for Spike Lee, and his deeply affecting album, A Time of God’s Will: A Requiem for Katrina, Blanchard transcends jazz tradition in a different way on Magnetic. Employing technology, he turns into what JazzTimes called “a trumpet orchestra with electronics.” His boldest work to date, it represents a giant leap from his buttoned-down efforts with the Messengers, and promises more exciting moves ahead.