A few years back trumpeter Terence Blanchard reached the remarkable decision that he needed to completely remake his embouchure–the set of the muscles in and around the mouth that produce a musical instrument’s sound. This was remarkable for a couple reasons. First, the sound of the instrument constitutes the most personal aspect of a musician’s style, and most musicians would undertake such a reconstruction only in the event of physical injury. (For most of us, this would be like changing the way we kiss.) What’s more, the New Orleans-born Blanchard–the man who replaced Wynton Marsalis in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers–had already achieved fame as a player and had steady work scoring Spike Lee’s films. But he had decided that he couldn’t progress any further unless he rebuilt his trumpet playing from the ground up. His first Chicago appearance after making this decision came at the 1994 Jazz Festival, but the results of his labor had not yet taken effect; for that we had to wait for the release of his album Romantic Defiance (Columbia) earlier this year. The title suggests the sort of ripe reverie that had turned mushy in Blanchard’s hands on previous albums, but the album reveals a greater emotional range–fueled by his crisper command of the trumpet’s challenging subtleties–and more fireworks than we’ve heard from Blanchard in a while. (It doesn’t hurt that he retains the surgical virtuosity of technique that always marked his playing. Now it communicates, rather than merely instructs.) Blanchard leads his quartet through the weekend, and the sets will almost certainly include a suite of the themes from his score for the recent film Clockers. He then sticks around to headline Joe Segal’s new monthly Monday night at Michael Jordan’s restaurant; there he’ll join Chicago brassmen Billy Brimfield, Orbert Davis, and Paul Serrano in the group Trumpets No Sax (led by drummer Wilbur Campbell) in a horn-happy tribute to Dizzy Gillespie. Friday through Sunday, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846. Monday, 7 and 9 PM, Michael Jordan’s, 500 N. LaSalle; 644-3865.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Hans Neleman.