Terence Blanchard

Terence Oliver Blanchard (born March 13, 1962) is an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and music educator. Blanchard started his career in 1980 as a member of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, then Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He has composed more than forty film scores and performed on more than fifty. He received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Score on Spike Lee's 2018 film BlacKkKlansman.

Terence Blanchard
Blanchard performing in July 2008
Background information
Birth nameTerence Oliver Blanchard
Born (1962-03-13) March 13, 1962
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger
Years active1980–present
LabelsBlue Note, Sony Classical, Columbia
Associated actsArt Blakey, Donald Harrison, Branford Marsalis, Bill Lee

Since 2000, Blanchard has served as artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. In 2011 he was named artistic director of the Henry Mancini Institute at the University of Miami. In the fall of 2015 he was named a visiting scholar in jazz composition at Berklee College of Music. In 2019, The Metropolitan Opera announced it will stage Blanchard's opera Fire Shut up In My Bones, with a libretto by Charles Blow, in their 2021-2022 Season. [1] As of 2019, this will be the first production by a black composer staged by the Metropolitan Opera in the organization's 136-year history.[2]

Early life

Blanchard was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the only child of Wilhelmina and Joseph Oliver Blanchard. His father was a manager at an insurance company and a part-time opera singer.[3] Blanchard began playing piano at the age of five, then the trumpet at age eight after hearing Alvin Alcorn. He played trumpet with his childhood friend Wynton Marsalis in summer music camps but showed no proficiency on the instrument. In high school, he studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts under Roger Dickerson and Ellis Marsalis Jr. From 1980 to 1982, he studied under jazz saxophonist Paul Jeffrey and trumpeter Bill Fielder at Rutgers University.


While studying jazz, Blanchard began touring with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. In 1982, Wynton Marsalis recommended Blanchard as his replacement in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Blanchard was the band's music director until 1986. He played alongside Blakey, Donald Harrison, and Mulgrew Miller, recording five albums from 1984 to 1988. He and Donald Harrison left Art Blakey in 1986 to form their quintet 'The Terence Blanchard/Donald Harrison Quintet' and signed with CBS Records. He left the Jazz Messengers in 1990 to pursue a solo career.[4]

In the 1990s, after an embouchure change, Blanchard recorded his self-titled debut for Columbia Records which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Jazz chart. After performing on soundtracks for Spike Lee movies, including Do the Right Thing and Mo' Better Blues, Lee wanted Blanchard to compose the scores for his films beginning with Jungle Fever (1991). Blanchard has written the score for every Spike Lee film since, including Malcolm X, Clockers, Summer of Sam, 25th Hour, Inside Man, and BlacKkKlansman.

In 2006, he composed the score for Spike Lee's four-hour Hurricane Katrina documentary for HBO entitled When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Blanchard appeared in front of the camera with his mother to share their journey back to find her home destroyed. He also created an album titled A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina), in which he recreated some pieces used in the documentary, as well as creating more pieces, to provide audiences with the opportunity to sympathize with those who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina.[5]

Blanchard has also composed for other directors, including Leon Ichaso, Ron Shelton, and Kasi Lemmons. Entertainment Weekly proclaimed Blanchard "central to a general resurgence of jazz composition for film." In a 1994 interview for Down Beat, Blanchard said, "Writing for film is fun, but nothing can beat being a jazz musician, playing a club, playing a concert".[6]

He has recorded several award-winning albums for Columbia, Sony Classical and Blue Note Records, including In My Solitude: The Billie Holiday Songbook (1994), Romantic Defiance (1995), The Heart Speaks (1996), Wandering Moon (2000), Let's Get Lost (2001) and Flow (2005), which was produced by pianist Herbie Hancock and received two Grammy Award nominations.

Terence Blanchard's 2001 album Let's Get Lost featured arrangements of classic songs written by Jimmy McHugh and performed by his quintet with vocalists Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves, and Cassandra Wilson.

In 2005, Blanchard was part of the ensemble that won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for his participation on McCoy Tyner's Illuminations, an award he shared with Tyner, Gary Bartz, Christian McBride and Lewis Nash.

Blanchard was a judge for the 5th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[7] In 2009 in the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog, Blanchard played all of the alligator Louis' trumpet parts. He also voiced the role of Earl the bandleader in the riverboat band.[8]

In December 2002, Scarecrow Press published Contemporary Cat: Terence Blanchard with Special Guests, an authorized biography of Blanchard written by Anthony Magro.

Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

In the fall of 2000, Terence Blanchard was named artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of California Los Angeles. Herbie Hancock serves as chairman; Wayne Shorter, Clark Terry and Jimmy Heath sit on the board of trustees. The conservatory offers an intensive, tuition-free, two-year master's program to a limited number of students (only up to eight per every two years).

In his role as artistic director, Blanchard works with the students in the areas of artistic development, arranging, composition, and career counseling. He also participates in master classes and community outreach activities associated with the program. "Out of my desire to give something back to the jazz community, I wanted to get involved. In fact, I've always said that if I wasn't a musician, that I would like to be a teacher. So I was glad to get involved and to be a part of this unique program that fosters such an open and accessible environment."[4]

In April 2007, the Institute announced its "Commitment to New Orleans" initiative which includes the relocation of the program to the campus of Loyola University New Orleans from Los Angeles. Blanchard had passionately lobbied the Institute to relocate saying, "After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was shaken and its musical roots were threatened. I grew up in this city and learned about jazz here at Loyola with other young jazz musicians like Wynton and Branford Marsalis and I know that the Institute will have a great impact on jazz and in our communities. We are going to work hard to help jazz and New Orleans flourish once again."[9]

Other work

In 2007, the Monterey Jazz Festival named Blanchard Artist-In-Residence, citing him as "one his generation’s most artistically mature and innovative artists and a committed supporter of jazz education."[10] The Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary Band featuring Blanchard on trumpet will make a 54-date, 10-week tour of the United States from January 8, 2008 to March 16, 2008. Rounding out the band will be saxophonist James Moody, pianist Benny Green, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott. The special ensemble will also feature jazz singer Nnenna Freelon.

In December 2007, the Terence Blanchard Quintet performed the movie music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard with an orchestra and singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, and Raul Midón at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.[11]

In November 2008 he was a guest on Private Passions, the biographical music discussion programme on BBC Radio 3.[12]

On February 10, 2008, Blanchard won his first Grammy Award as a bandleader for A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) in the category of Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. His two other Grammy Awards were as a sideman for Art Blakey (1984) and McCoy Tyner (2004).

Blanchard composed original music for Stephen Adly Guirgis's Broadway play The Motherfucker With the Hat, which premiered at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on April 11, 2011.[13][14][15] The show is described as "a high-octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity and misplaced haberdashery."[16]

On January 20, 2012, the film Red Tails was released nationwide in the United States. Blanchard served as the composer of the original score, marking the first time he has worked with executive producer George Lucas.

He composed incidental music for the 2012 Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.

He released Magnetic May 28, 2013 on Blue Note Records.

On June 15, 2013, after a workshop with Opera Fusion: New Works, Blanchard premiered his first opera, Champion, at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. It is about the life of prize fighting boxer Emile Griffith from St. Thomas, with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Cristofer. It stars Denyce Graves, Aubrey Allicock, Robert Orth, and Arthur Woodley.

Blanchard's album, Breathless, with his new band, The E-Collective, was released by Blue Note Records on May 26, 2015. Featuring Maroon 5's PJ Morton on three cuts, and JRei Oliver, Terence's son, on spoken word, the core band consists of Fabian Almazan on keyboards, Charles Altura on guitar, Donald Ramsey on bass, and Oscar Seaton on drums. Cuepoint, on the web publishing site, Medium, published Blanchard's essay, "Using Music to Underscore Three Words: I Can't Breathe"[17] which details Blanchard's revulsion by the death of Eric Garner and how the subsequent "I Can't Breathe" campaign inspired the series of songs the E-Collective created for the album.

In the summer of 2019, Blanchard will premiere his second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The opera is based on the memoir of the same title by Charles Blow.[18] On November 9, 2019 Blanchard performed alongside Lady Gaga as a special guest during her Jazz and Piano show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Awards and honors

Grammy Awards

  • Career Wins: 6[19]
  • Career Nominations: 14
Terence Blanchard Grammy History
Year Category Title Genre Label Result Notes
1984 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance – Group New York Scene Jazz Concord Winner with the Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
1990 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance – Group Mo' Better Blues (Soundtrack) Jazz CBS Nominated with the Branford Marsalis Quartet.
1996 Best Latin Jazz Album The Heart Speaks Latin Jazz Columbia Nominated features the compositions of Ivan Lins.
2000 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo Wandering Moon Jazz Sony Classical Nominated for the track "I Thought About You"
2001 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo Let's Get Lost Jazz Sony Classical Nominated for the track "Lost In a Fog"
2004 Best Jazz Instrumental Album McCoy Tyner's Illuminations Jazz Telarc Winner featured as the band's trumpeter and composer of one song.
2005 Best Jazz Instrumental Album Flow Jazz Blue Note Nominated Herbie Hancock, album producer.
2006 Best Long Form Music Video Flow: Living in the Stream of Music (DVD) Jazz Blue Note Nominated Jim Gabour, video director/producer; Robin Burgess video producer.
2007 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) Jazz Blue Note Nominated for the track "Levees"
2007 Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) Jazz Blue Note Winner features Blanchard's quintet with a 40-piece string orchestra.
2008 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival Jazz Blue Note Winner for the track "Be-Bop"
2009 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo Watts Jazz Dark Key Music Winner for the track "Dancin' 4 Chicken"
2013 Best Improvised Jazz Solo "Don't Run" Jazz Blue Note Nominated Lost to Wayne Shorter
2019 Best Instrumental Composition "Blut Und Boden (Blood And Soil)" Composing Blue Note Winner


Selected film-related awards for Terence Blanchard.[20]

Year Award Category Score Result
1994 Soul Train Music Award[21] Best Jazz Album The Malcolm X Jazz Suite Nominated
1995 Emmy Award Best Original Score for a TV Mini-Series The Promised Land Nominated
2003 World Soundtrack Award Soundtrack Composer of the Year 25th Hour Nominated
2003 Sierra Award Best Score 25th Hour Nominated
2003 Golden Globe Best Original Score – Motion Picture 25th Hour Nominated
2003 Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) Best Score 25th Hour Winner
2005 Black Reel Best Original Score She Hate Me Nominated
2007 Black Reel Best Original Score Inside Man Nominated
2019 Academy Award Best Original Score BlacKkKlansman Nominated


A complete discography of Blanchard's jazz recordings as a bandleader.[4]

Year Title Genre Label
1984 New York Second Line (as Harrison/Blanchard) Jazz Concord
1986 Discernment (as Harrison/Blanchard) Jazz Concord
1986 Nascence (as Harrison/Blanchard) Jazz Columbia
1987 Crystal Stair (as Harrison/Blanchard) Jazz Columbia
1988 Black Pearl (as Harrison/Blanchard) Jazz Columbia
1991 Terence Blanchard Jazz Columbia
1992 Simply Stated Jazz Columbia
1993 The Malcolm X Jazz Suite Jazz Columbia
1994 In My Solitude: The Billie Holiday Songbook Jazz Columbia
1995 Romantic Defiance Jazz Columbia
1996 The Heart Speaks Latin jazz Columbia
1999 Jazz in Film Jazz Sony Classical
2000 Wandering Moon Jazz Sony Classical
2001 Let's Get Lost: The Songs of Jimmy McHugh Jazz Sony Classical
2003 Bounce Jazz Blue Note
2005 Flow Jazz Blue Note
2007 A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) Jazz Blue Note
2009 Choices Jazz Concord
2011 Chano y Dizzy! (with Poncho Sanchez) Latin Jazz Concord
2013 Magnetic Jazz Blue Note
2015 Breathless (featuring The E-Collective) Jazz, fusion Blue Note
2018 Live (featuring The E-Collective) Jazz, fusion Blue Note

As sideman

With Art Blakey

With Joanne Brackeen

With Ralph Moore

With Cedar Walton


A selected filmography of Terence Blanchard scores.[4][22]


  1. Cooper, Michael. "The Met Will Stage Its First Opera by a Black Composer". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  2. Cooper, Michael. "The Met Will Stage Its First Opera by a Black Composer". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  3. "Terence Blanchard Biography (1962-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  4. "Magro, Anthony. "Contemporary Cat: Terence Blanchard with Special Guests", Scarecrow Press (2002)"
  5. Maloney, Ann. "The pain of Katrina will spill forth when trumpeter Terence Blanchard performs with the LPO on Saturday". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  6. Terence Blanchard, ENotes.com
  7. Independent Music Awards – Past Judges Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "The Princess and the Frog: Fun Facts! – Features". Tribute.ca. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  9. Jazz Police – The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Moves to New Orleans Archived 2007-11-09 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Monterey Jazz Festival Presents Terence Blanchard Quintet Live in Concert Archived 2007-11-18 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Kennedy Center: The Movie Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard Archived 2007-08-18 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "BBC Radio 3 - Private Passions". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  13. "The Motherf**ker with the Hat", ibdb.com, accessed 12 April 2011.
  14. Ben Brantley (11 April 2011), "A Love Not at a Loss for Words", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-04-12
  15. Marilyn Stasio (11 April 2011), The Motherfucker With the Hat, Variety, retrieved 2011-04-12
  16. News Staff (December 9, 2010). "The Motherf**ker With the Hat, Starring Chris Rock, Moves Forward First Preview". Broadway.com. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  17. Blanchard, Terence. "Using Three Words to Underscore Three Words: I Can't Breathe". Medium.com. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
  18. "Opera Theatre of Saint Louis". opera-stl.org. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  19. "Grammy Awards list". Grammy.com. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  20. "Terence Blanchard". IMDb.com. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  21. Jet – Google Boeken. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  22. "IMDB: Terence Blanchard".

Further reading

  • Magro, Anthony. Contemporary Cat: Terence Blanchard with Special Guests, Scarecrow Press (2002) – ISBN 0-8108-4323-4
  • Yanow, Scott. Trumpet Kings: The Players Who Shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet, Backbeat Books (2002) – ISBN 0-87930-608-4
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