By Johnny G
June 21, 2017
Terence Blanchard and The E Collective surprised, intrigued, delighted and entertained a very attentive Jazz in June crowd Tuesday night. Blanchard is a multi-Grammy award winning musician, composer and bandleader who currently resides in New Orleans with his wife and children.
The E Collective consists of keyboardist Fabian Almazan, guitarist Charles Altura, bassist David Ginyard and drummer Oscar Seaton. Seaton and Blanchard had previously worked on a soundtrack together that had them creating what they’ve termed “groove” music.
This music has a distinct R & B influence, with Blanchard deploying electronic effects on his trumpet that immediately tells the listener, “this is something different”.
The opening song, “See Me As I Am” began with Almazan playing a romantic piano solo over gentle sampled sounds, culminating in a ballad that barely maintained a tempo, as the rhythm section toyed with the slow groove. This song lasted at least fifteen minutes and allowed the three soloists (Blanchard, Almazan and Altura) to really stretch out, but in a very laid back way. This led to a piano segue into the next song, “Chaos”, which featured Alzaman’s piano with added distortion effects that really intensified his sound. When Blanchard doesn’t play his trumpet, he’s playing additional keyboards that work very well in the ensemble sound.
The first three numbers all connected seamlessly together and we didn’t hear Blanchard speak until about 45 minutes into the set where he thanked the crowd, introduced the musicians and gave a recap of the songs played. The last piece before intermission, “Soldiers,” was dedicated to the social workers that do so much for the less fortunate in our country.
Video by Steffan Decker
After intermission, Blanchard and the band kicked it into high gear with the tune “Can Anyone Hear Me?,” which featured more intense solos and more electronic distortion to great effect from several of the soloists. “American Gangster” brought vocalist Tondrae Kemp to the stage to sing his composition, which featured superb lyrics very critical of the American way of life. Next up was the Blanchard composition, “Dear Jimi”, which featured the guitar playing of Altura, who sounded nothing like Jimi Hendrix, but was brilliant nonetheless. The band ended on a song that had Blanchard retreating off the back of the stage, seemingly playing to the audience assembled there as the song came to its conclusion.
This may have been one of the more “out” and creative examples of jazz to hit Jazz in June in recent memory and one may tend to worry that the crowd may be averse to music that defies expectations. Not so last night, as the crowd was into the performance throughout the evening and more than up to the challenge that Blanchard and his band brought to Lincoln.
Johnny G. is a longtime KZUM programmer and host of “Impressions,” airing Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m., on KZUM.