Magnetic – Terence Blanchard (2013)

Terence Blanchard

Album artwork for Magnetic

Since his days as the musical director of the 1980s-era of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Terence Blanchard has been a leading figure in the modern jazz movement.  I’m sure that many of us are well-acquainted with much of his work throughout the three decades.  In recent years, he has been keeping himself remarkably busy with a constant slew of original film and TV scores, including the 2012 picture “Red Tails,” which was executively produced by George Lucas.  Now, Blanchard returns to the renowned Blue Note Records with his latest studio album, Magnetic.

The aggregation of over 50 soundtrack credits as composer as left a clearly discernible mark on the musical sensibilities of this esteemed trumpeter.  Although Magnetic has distinct roots in the jazz tradition that he has become known for, it does not hesitate to travel through whole new realms of sound that had not previously been explored.  These voyages are by no means an unwelcome change, however.  They instead add a keen edge of heterogeneity that elevates the album towards a much greater plane of musical excellence.

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Saxophone Colossus – Sonny Rollins (1956)

Album artwork for Saxophone Colossus

Album artwork for Saxophone Colossus

The early days of Sonny Rollins were a time when jazz was flourishing across the United States. The atmosphere in the music scene was full of excitement as jazz musicians continued to experiment and strive to push the envelope. Growing up in Harlem alongside other soon-to-be jazz greats, Rollins quickly become enamored with such a world full of creative expression, and he began rising through the ranks as an outstanding jazz musician.  He played with the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.  By this time, the stage was set for Rollins to cross the bridge into jazz stardom, and in 1956 he released Saxophone Colossus, an album which would change the perception of jazz saxophone forever.

There are very few records that are more definitively jazz than this one.  Saxophone Colossus is an essential part of any jazz collection worth its salt.  Despite having been recorded over fifty years ago, it still remains as an incredible album that stands out effortlessly against some of today’s best releases, just as Sonny Rollins still remains as one of the most influential jazz musicians.  Sonny Rollins brought about a new method of musical creativity and improvisation to the table; something that made his style truly unique.  To this day, it has proven immensely hard for other jazz musicians to copy such a distinct style.  He’s frequently been described as a “free player” and a “thematic improviser.”  As Rollins himself has put it, he is a so-called “stream-of-consciousness player.”  In other words, he has gained the incredible ability to be completely spontaneous in his solos, but also to give such improvisations a cohesive overall structure at the same time. This is not an easy task at all when soloing over fast, complex chord changes.

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