The Oberlin Chamber Orchestra will share the Finney Chapel stage with a jazz legend on Thursday, October 13: The Terence Blanchard Quintet, led by the prolific trumpeter and composer, will perform Blanchard’s Grammy Award-winning 2007 composition A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). The free performance begins at 8 p.m.
Also on October 13, Blanchard will lead a free, public master class with conservatory students at noon in the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building's Clonick Hall.
For Oberlin students, the concert is an invaluable opportunity to collaborate with a vital figure in jazz. For audiences, it’s an equally enticing chance to hear Blanchard’s moving and melancholy ode to the steady resolve of his New Orleans hometown, 15 years removed from the hurricane that ravaged its neighborhoods and displaced its people.
“Our concert with Terence Blanchard gives us a welcome opportunity to replicate a professional experience,” says Raphael Jiménez, conductor of the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra. “The performance of ‘non-classical’ concerts, such as pops and children’s concerts, is an essential part of the season for most professional orchestras in the country. Often, the orchestra serves as support to a guest artist, and the concert is put together in a very limited amount of rehearsal time. So this is a great educational experience for us.”
In his youth, Blanchard studied at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. By the time he entered college at Rutgers University, he also began performing in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra; soon after, he succeeded Wynton Marsalis in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Among his 50 film scores are almost everything made by director Spike Lee.
A Tale of God’s Will grew out of a 2006 project with Lee: When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, a four-hour HBO documentary about the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Blanchard himself appeared in the film along with his mother, who had lost her home to the disaster.
In 2007 Blanchard recorded A Tale of God’s Will, which revisits music first heard in the documentary. The following year, the album won the Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album; it is one of five Grammys garnered by Blanchard over his career.
The Oberlin performance is copresented by Tri-C Performing Arts at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, where Blanchard is artist in residence for 2016-17. His ensemble also consists of drummer Justin Brown, bassist Linda Oh, pianist Shai Maestro, and sax player Brice Winston.
The evening opens with a performance by the Ben Cruz Quintet, a small jazz ensemble that includes Oberlin students Ben Cruz on guitar; Giveton Gelin on trumpet, Nate Rice on saxophone, Emma Adomeit on bass, and Ricardo Guerra on drums.