Trumpeter Terence Blanchard's 2018 concert album, Live, features his electric ensemble the E-Collective playing a series of shows in cities where there have been well-publicized deaths due to gun violence. Conceived as a way for Blanchard to express his support for these communities, and as a possible catharsis, the concerts in Cleveland, Dallas, and St. Paul have a direct, purposeful feeling. The underlying message is serious, imbued with a sense of pain and loss. There's also a palpable sense of anger expressed here, especially in Blanchard's often ferocious trumpet solos. Nonetheless, the music is as vibrant, expressive, and forward-reaching as Blanchard's previous recordings with the E-Collective, including 2013's Magnetic and 2015's Breathless. Joining him are his E-Collective bandmates guitarist Charles Altura, bassist David Ginyard, Jr., keyboardist Fabian Almazan, and drummer Oscar Seaton. Together, they play an expansive brand of jazz fusion, influenced by the '70s work of artists like Miles Davis, Larry Coryell, Chick Corea, and others. However, rather than making throwback grooves, Blanchard keeps his ear attuned to modern sounds, like electronic DJ music, hip-hop, and contemporary classical composition, and weaves all of these influences together. It's a sound especially evident on the frenetic bop-tinged "Can Anyone Hear Me," in which Blanchard surfs a gargantuan jungle-electro beat, spitting densely constructed, computer-soaked trumpet lines like a mad-eyed robot. Similarly, he sinks into the slow-burn funk of "Hannibal," his effects-laden trumpet a piercing, multi-voiced cry offset by Almazan's sophisticated acoustic piano lines. Elsewhere, "Unchanged" is a far-eyed, flamenco-tinged piece, and "Soldiers" is an all-out onslaught of fuzz-toned fusion with Blanchard diving into the fray, his trumpet a sparkle of digital squelch. There are also tender moments, like the searing ballad "Dear Jimi," which opens with a soulful, George Duke-esque synth solo from Almazan and an equally intense guitar improv from Altura. While Blanchard's warm gravitas grounds all of the tracks on Live, he remains a generous leader, willing to let his bandmates capture much of the spotlight. His generosity of spirit, both musically and emotionally, and message of hope and solidarity toward his audiences make Live a truly heartfelt experience.
© Matt Collar /TiVo