Terence Blanchard has composed a soundtrack or three and it shows. Each tune on his new album Flow on the Jazz workhorse label Blue Note could be its own little movie. Close your eyes on the opening track while Blanchard’s horn and backing slink project a head picture of those mean streets of Noir. The next two tracks, with their African tinged vocalizings, put you in a different film entirely. Maybe endless, dry animal dotted plain instead of grey cityscape? Scenes shift and places are traveled. Bits of drama and cinema find their way throughout the disc. Picture some cool, smoky bar where some bad thing might go down, then find your way to some Paris street where lovers coo.
The album is a fairly seamless exploration of various Jazz tinged styles. It’s seamless in the sense that the players work in telepathy to create a scene. Such is the level of artistry, that, with each change in direction or movement through Jazz history between or even within each song, these cinematic u-turns are barely noticed. The risk in a free roving or eclectic disk is that nothing sticks, since the listener is left with half formed scraps or asides. Blanchard avoids these pitfalls with his obvious respect and knowledge of Jazz history and a keen compositional sense. He reveals the right balance of intuition and artistry in his use of sounds and sidemen.
Tradition past and future breathe in Blanchard’s solos. That’s the brightest gem in this collection. Assurance and poise ring through Blanchard’s measured, fluid tones. There is no sense of aping the past in what he does. It is expression, with respect to both ends of the temporal scale that pulls Blanchard to the stars.
If you weary of Jazz neo-con backward glances and necrophilia, you’ll feel free and home when Blanchard puts the horn to his lips. There’s thrill and chill to be had in this disc’s finer points. Close the eyes and let sound shape the movie sure to fill your head.