Terence Blanchard Addresses The Past Through Work With Spike Lee And Preps For Brighter Future


Terence Blanchard—who won a Grammy in the category Best Instrumental Composition for “Blut Und Boden (Blood And Soil),” a work featured in Spike Lee’s 2018 movie BlacKkKlansman—composed the score for the filmmaker’s latest effort, Da 5 Bloods.

(Photo: Henry Abenejo)

In the pantheon of collaborative triumphs, musical partnerships like Billie Holiday and Lester Young or Miles Davis and Teo Macero are easy to reference. At some point, though, jazz historians are going to need to survey the work that trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard has done with filmmaker Spike Lee.

The director’s latest endeavor—a Netflix feature called Da 5 Bloods—recounts the story of a cohort of Black war veterans who travel back to Vietnam in an attempt to recover a fallen friend and find buried gold. In part, it’s a genre picture, a combination of war movie and buddy flick, with the onetime soldiers trekking into the jungle and dealing with the past.

For Blanchard, who spoke to DownBeat recently from his home in New Orleans, the past and America’s endlessly problematic origin story seem to have been on his mind. His own previous leader dates have explored gun violence and police brutality, and his latest film score (set alongside a bevy of Marvin Gaye tunes) isn’t wholly divorced from those ideas, elevating Lee’s feature in the process.

During a wide-ranging conversation, Blanchard discussed his working relationship with Lee, other projects that are continuing despite the pandemic and President Donald Trump’s prospects in the November elections.

“If people of color come out to vote in this country,” Blanchard said, “he’s sunk.”

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