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Terence Blanchard
A Tale Of God's Will
(A Requiem For Katrina)

Review By Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
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  A Tale Of Gods Will (A Requiem For Katrina) is more than just another jazz record and much more than a soundtrack recording; it is an epic recording that, while rooted in jazz, reaches far beyond any single genre. Multi Grammy winner and New Orleans native Terence Blanchard and company have taken the material he wrote for Spike Lee's documentary "When the Levees Broke" and expanded it into a collection of tracks that is simply beyond category. The album reminds us of the musical gifts that New Orleans has given us, what has been lost, and what we are in jeopardy of losing in the aftermath of the flood.

Opening track "Ghosts Of Congo Square" is a vibrant Afro-Cuban style rhythm track with chanting and some spirited trumpet soloing. It is only after reading the tracks liner notes, written by Blanchard and Lolis Elie, that I learned the significance of what the Congo Square represents: a place where those who resisted slavery were publicly hung. Later, after the days of slavery had ended, it became a place where local people would gather and share the percussion music that their ancestors brought with them from Africa. The music is a joyous and lively homage to the roots of what would ultimately become jazz, and as I first heard it I felt like getting out of my seat and moving to the beat.

"Levees" opens with melancholy strings, provided by The Northwest Sinfonia, and as Blanchard's lonely trumpet eases into the mix, one can imagine old and tired levees straining to hold back the water that never ceases to push against them. This is very cinematic music that has the power to make you feel and see things in your mind. "Wading Through" is a little more up-beat, almost romantic, and as the track builds it becomes more unnerving with notes playing against each other until finally transitioning into something almost hopeful.

More lively and recognizably jazz is "Ghost of Betsy." This is like the kind of music you'd hear bumping from an opened window as you amble down Bourbon Street on a typical New Orleans evening before the exodus that followed the storm. "Mantra," written by Kendrick Scott, is a hopeful song that suggests New Orleans will once again sing with the life and the music for which it has been known for the past century. Bass and drums gently swirl around with piano and converge with a ghostlike trumpet until the track becomes cool and modern jazz all at once.

A Tale Of Gods Will (A Requiem For Katrina) is a perfect example of what can happen when a group of gifted artists become inspired by an overwhelming event, in this case surviving tragedy while losing everything to it. It is clear after listening to this record that New Orleans is more than just a city that Blanchard and his Quintet called home, it is a member of their family that lives very close to their hearts. With Thirteen tracks, A Tale Of Gods Will will appeal to jazz fans as well as those who like powerful and stirring instrumental music. And be sure to look for The Terence Blanchard Quintet live at a venue near you.

 

 

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