The Jazzcat

Archive for April, 2018

Terence Blanchard in the West at SFJAZZ and the Soraya Spreads Truth Through Sonic Vibrations!

by on Apr.16, 2018, under News

E for Electric, exciting, elation, evolution, equality, equinox and essential.
The patrons here at SFJAZZ are so diverse in terms of their cultural mix of intellectuals. This is such a blessing that this music we love, Jazz has made its way into every aspect of our society. The only thing missing is the presence of youth and that is the responsibility of us all. Next time everybody bring your youth. Let them know that you want to spend time with them and plant the seed of creativity. Tell them, there is code built into the system allowing a back door to old ways of thinking but, “This ain’t your grand daddy’s music, It’s yours” and together we can raise an entire generation of jazz lovers!

I specifically remember asking Terence at least 2 decades ago, what was happening with the music. At that time, many artists were coming out with albums that were leaving the arena of what most would traditionally classify as jazz. He told me, “the music was like a tree that continues to grow”. My concern is that the changing sound of the music would span outside the realm of what we know as jazz. But in 2018, the sounds, expanding concepts, the political tension, the power of consciousness, strength of humanity, the will of people to balance the scales of justice, world cultural influences and the times that are a changing all fall under the colorful, emotional and prowess of Jazz! This is an ever changing world and we must learn to acknowledge the past, embrace its blossoming beauty and stand fast against the evils that constantly plague our existence.

Elaborate visuals appear on scream with the symbol of Terence’s last album, “Breathless” right at the center. I look at this symbol and the single phrase indelibly lodged in my brain is,” I can’t breathe”, the injustice of today’s world and our entire history as Americans speak loud and clear. The story for people of all colors stand prevalent at the forefront. As we begin, the sound of one note starts out as a small beacon and becomes omnipresent as the words of Cornell West lays down truth and wisdom about humanity.
Groove emanates as the musicians enter stage right. Terence clicks in for effects and its on. From trumpet to keys laying a bed of love under Charles Altura who takes the lead and runs with it. Gerald Clayton dirges into the depths of consciousness before emerging vivaciously, raising the power of the band. The backbone of that power is the bright ever-present energy of Oscar Seaton’s driving force of rhythm. His smile means he is having fun but also, at the pinnacle of the hit!


The intensity builds and the rue gets thick. You can feel a pendulum shift as the band turns the corner. The montage of images are conscious, changing and depicting worldly thoughts and ideas as they sear and subliminally unite humanity, culture, sound, and truth with no justice. A powerful blend of earth and water, stars and stripes splattered in painted blood, a dove representing hope, the all seeing eye, fire, the faces of our people, yin and yang, the Ankh of life, a moving canvas of cultural diversity, beauty and darkness in the eyes of the Sphinx. No matter who is at the helm, it’s all about us and we, not I.
We share this place mind, body and soul from the earth to the heavens. The air is for us all to BREATHE. Oscar’s shirt tonight says it all. It’s one word “Beloved” but, with the angles and changing images can be interpreted as, Love, Be Love and Beloved. The message to the establishment, skip the rhetoric and put a wall around THIS!(use your imagination)

Terence loves these cats. He watched Gerald Clayton since he was a kid sitting in for his regular pianist Fabian Almazon tonight. Gerald took on the music so effortlessly, Terence questions whether he needs to write more challenging music. On bass, from Winnsboro SouthCarolina, a funky cat in and out of the pocket, David Ginyard. From Chi-town and one of the reason why this bands exist, brother Oscar Seaton. They both did a film score together and the music was so funky! The kept messing up the takes just because they wanted to have more fun and did not want the session to be over. The film score was for a movie called “Talk to Me and they decided that they need to create a band and take this music on the road. Terence initially met Oscar when he was playing with Art Blakey and Oscar was with Oscar Peterson. Charles Altura, the cat from the Bay by way of Stanford University Anthropology Department, hence digging in and dusting off the bones and making them shine to reveal the true nature of what was, what it and what will be!

Terence has a new album called “Live” that was just released. “Caravan” was original name. They traveled or “Caravaned” to all of the states and cities that had tragic incidents to play and offer sonic healing for the people; it was an amazing experience. He dedicates one of his compositions to a hero of music. Not a jazz musician but, his sound has always been at the core of influence and Terence has always had mush love and respect for the greatness of Jimi Hendrix.


So we cruise down the coast back to Los Angeles where we experience Terence at the Soraya, which for jazz has been recently transformed into an intimate jazz club experience; where you are literally onstage behind the curtains as the musicians perform. The artistic director has done a fine job at securing some of the most dynamic players in the business to perform including Cecil McLauren Salvant, Amir El Saffar, The Miles Davis Electric Band, and of course Terence, with an exciting line-up for its 2018-19 season.

On point this evening is Taylor Eighsti on piano who brings his wisdom, humor and illustrious touch to already rich and soulfully saturated band increasing its flavor. Tonight the groove takes you down a rabbit hole of knowledge. Once you go down this path, ignorance is longer an option. This is the beauty and the curse of enlightenment and music can certainly contribute to that elevation. It is unavoidable as Terence writes such emotion into his compositions that if you don’t already know, you are forced to ask the questions. As a matter of fact, the statements, feeling and words are consciously embedded in the fabric of the sound so there is no escape! Heal some souls, heal some hearts, and let the table be filled with discussion that may or may not change attitudes but, if we talk together in a respectful way, maybe humanity will prevail over color and injustice because Orange, Ain’t the new Black!

Soldiers”, written for all of the social workers and people who are out there working hard in America and trying to make a difference is one of those tunes where you hear the implication of voices; the struggle, the power and an eminent implication of what is to come if we don’t just all get a long. I know there is us and them but, let’s talk about “we” as a way of thinking, as a way of living and a way of being. If you don’t stand up for it, you will fall as a result of it. “Therefore, we must ignore, fightin’ and fussin’, Blanchard’s in the house and they’ll be no bum rushin’”.

With a degree in architecture, David Ginyard Jr. once again crafts beautiful structural underlying vibrations in addition to a new rhythm in the second set as our very own Gene Coye puts his lock on the drum set. You can see Terrence staring with his funky headbop of approval as Coye descends a nation of rhythm upon us.

Terence Blanchard, composer, musician, human, taking his craft and wares to market adjudicating truth and exposing injustice through the essence of gorgeous vibrations in your body and in your face. We come from the power of love which cannot be denied and will prevail over any false prophecy. The music is the magic!



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Rest In Peace: A Memory for Dear Brother Cecil Taylor at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco

by on Apr.07, 2018, under News

Cecil TaylorRest in Peace


Oh my, Grace Cathedral is such a massive and superior place for the delivery of extraordinary blessings on high. It is gorgeous, stimulating and stunningly beautiful! After a day of trains to the City, back to Oakland and back to the City once again, to just be still was a thrill, but not my heart.




Blood flow would certainly be at an increased capacity once Cecil started to light it up.  The Cathedral was packed and luckily one of the ushers spotted a couple of great seats for me. The lights dimmed and the spotlight was on the piano. Cecil was not there but, you heard his voice peering from the unknown. Metaphysically sophisticated rants of poetic verbal reverberations start off as small waves and pass through the sea of beings getting greater as they reach the rear of the cathedral. Upon their return you are slightly surrounded by the single sound which has grown exponentially in clarity and complexity.


Into the light he appears still spewing thoughts, words, phrases, and philosophical equations that froze Dante bronze in his most popular position. They say great minds think alike but what did they say about those who think from different angles? Now if you can understand and breakdown the rhetoric of Taylor, then you really have it going on because this is Cecil’s world, and the best we can do is be gracious that we are invited guests. Don’t try to figure out and dissect the blessings, just sit back, be open, listen and let the love of the music fill your soul!
 Cecil makes his transition of languages and while the air is still ringing with the sustain of his poetry. The space is filled with audible thematic cinemas depicting one’s own personal images of past, present and future. The journey of the dance begins and although your body will not physically rise, cerebrally you will touch on lands and end up in the “Thinker” back on the same shores, but in a totally different state. There are galaxies unknown to man but perhaps Cecil has tapped into the source and is interpreting its signals. From thunderous chords to sheets of cascading notes, the relevance of form, structure and composition melt in to one continuous source of positive energy; like looking at the code in the Matrix. The speed by which the information is traveling through him to the piano is so fast that the sounds tax the system creating a vortex between reality and the pure source of inspiration. Yes, he is human but he is red pill plugged in!


 Cecil blasts off and so much is seen from the portal of his ship. Musically, he documents his hypothesis, provides sufficient data for his theories, logs the encrypted information in his journal and the beautiful cipher is enjoyed yet remains unbroken. The world exists as a drop of water and the entity gets smaller as the experience approaches infinity. There could be no more perfect of a place for the spirit, the energy and the music to connect; the euphoric crossroads of life, journey, destiny, reason and purpose.


Are all heads bowed, all eyes closed and all bodies swaying? No, but this particular state acts as conduit where the music directly infuses into the soul. The number one is a represented as a whole, the entire spectrum. But, while one has a beginning and an end, Cecil finds his solace in the exploration of the freedom between the two distinctly identical points!


You can practice for hours and days but there isno memorizing to play a piece of music. The practice is to have the energy and the strength to let the piece of music play you! The music is all too lovely and even though the form and structures are different, the in, out, up and down all pleasantly love and respect each other. If you played every note on the piano individually, there would be no bad notes, only good. Cecil is like a gourmet chef who mixes blends and spices all eighty-eight ingredients for health of body, wealth of mind, nutrients for the spirit all in an intriguing dish to pleasure the pallet.

The experience is like the staring into a changing image with respect to the music. As you listen, concentrate and feel the music, the images formulate and the ears open wide! If there is any type of distraction the image is instantly gone and you must go back to the beginning to find a new path to synchronization. I had my eyes closed and was totally engrossed in the music until, the young lady next to me, as fine as she was released her toxic Kimchi carbon monoxide fermentation in my direction and literally blew me out of the water. DRAKARUS!

As I recover I find that it is pretty evident that Cecil can fill the space with a voracity of chord clusters and plights of splendor that emphasize that the quartet is not missed. Solo that gets you so high! A standing ovation to Cecil but, I also applaud an audience of curious listeners who stayed in full force and did not leave as sometimes unbelievers do. And just as he appeared from the darkness so does he retire. The musical mystic that we are forever grateful for!





LeRoy Downs

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