When trumpeter Terence Blanchard arrives in Miami this week to perform in the opening of the Jazz Roots series at the Adrienne Arsht Center, he will have just finished scoring his fifteenth movie for director Spike Lee, Chiraq.
“We finished it two weeks ago, and we’re going back now to score two more additional scenes and then we will be done,” says Blanchard from his New Orleans home. “That’s what I’ll be doing in Los Angeles right before I come to Miami.”
Friday’s program, “The Movie Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard,” celebrates Lee’s movies and the jazz-infused scores Blanchard has created as the filmmaker’s resident composer. It is co-presented by the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music as part of Festival Miami. The school’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra will join Blanchard’s quintet, along with Grammy- and Tony-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, for the show.
Inescapably, the concert will stir thoughts of Jazz Roots founder Larry Rosen, a trailblazing jazz producer and music executive who died in October.
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“I wish it was under different circumstances,” says Blanchard, 53, who has fond memories of Rosen. The trumpet player says he was almost signed to Rosen’s contemporary jazz record label GRP, but the company was sold before the deal could be inked.
“We remained good friends,” says Blanchard, adding that Rosen was unique in the industry. “He understood that if the art was great, the commerce would follow. He’s going to be missed because of the impact that he’s had on jazz music.”
Blanchard is one of the most celebrated musicians in jazz. A five-time Grammy winner, he started his musical career with Lionel Hampton’s orchestra, going on to play with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The composer, arranger and bandleader has recorded more than 30 solo albums and has more than 50 film scores to his credit.
It was Lee who first saw Blanchard’s potential for writing music for the movies. The two men met when the trumpeter was hired to coach Denzel Washington on how to look authentic as musician Bleek Gilliam for the 1990 film Mo’ Better Blues.
“I got a chance to write one scene, which actually started my career in this business because Spike said, ‘You have a future in writing for film,’ ” Blanchard says. “Then he called me for Jungle Fever.”
To this day, Blanchard says Lee challenges him creatively.
“Working with him has taught me how to treat the music as another character in a film,” he says, adding that Lee’s love of melodic themes will make the concert an accessible and enjoyable one. It will also feature a montage of scenes from Lee’s films.
In addition to Bridgewater, the show also includes the singers Maysa, who performed on the soundtrack of Jungle Fever; and Judith Hill, who was a top contender on The Voice and was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom, about the lives of back-up singers.
Blanchard, who has led the Terence Blanchard Quintet since 1990, also has a close history with the Frost School. From 2011 to 2014 he was artistic director of the Mancini Institute Orchestra, an elite graduate student ensemble created to give the young musicians at UM professional and performing experience. The group performs each year on the Jazz Roots series.
“I forged relationships with many of the students and the faculty when I was there, so it’s going to be exciting coming back,” Blanchard says.
Scott Flavin, the Mancini Institute’s resident conductor, says the opportunity to perform with artists of Blanchard’s caliber is an invaluable one.
“With a show like this, with so many soloists, it is a great learning experience,” Flavin says. One Mancini fellow, saxophonist Phil Doyle, will perform with Blanchard’s quintet.
Blanchard seconds Flavin on the value for students of performing with established artists.
“They see how a professional rehearses, how they conduct themselves and how they interact with musicians. Then they see how it translates into a live performance,” he says.
And when it all comes together live onstage, it’s nothing short of magic, says Flavin.
“There’s an energy that’s given out by a great performer, and playing with these kinds of stars is life-changing for the students,” says Flavin. “You can lecture all day long about performing at this kind of level, but these performers know how to move an audience, and it’s something that can’t be replicated anywhere else.”
ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit source of South Florida dance and performing arts coverage.
If you go
What: ‘Jazz Roots: The Movie Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard.’
Where: Knight Concert Hall, Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Information: 305-949-6722 or arshtcenter.org.