“I’ve always believed that in life, what you keep in your mind is what you draw to yourself.” That’s how trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard explains the title of his 20th album, Magnetic, which finds a stunning variety of sounds and styles pulled together by the irresistible force of Blanchard’s vision.
That credo stems directly from Blanchard’s personal faith; raised in the Christian church, he has turned in recent years to Buddhism after meditating with Herbie Hancock while on the road with the legendary pianist. The idea of a spiritual magnetism “is a basic concept in any type of religion,” he says. “Both Christianity and Buddhism have forms of meditation - one’s called prayer and one’s called chanting. But it’s all about drawing on those things to help you attain enlightenment in your life at the same time that you’re trying to give back to the community.”
Blanchard also readily sings the praises of his core group, which has been evolving over two years together to reach the deeply attuned point at which Magnetic finds them. “I’ve always appreciated the artistry of Brice and Kendrick,” he says of the band’s two veterans. “They’ve very seriously committed to developing their own unique styles of playing.”
Of newcomer Crumbly, he says, “Josh is a young guy who’s very talented and brings a lot to the group.” And of Almazan, he continues, “Fabian has been growing by leaps and bounds. His harmonic knowledge has taken the band in interesting directions and he colors things in ways that I think are very fresh and forward-thinking.”
So enamored is the bandleader of Almazan’s talents that he affords the pianist a solo spotlight, the captivating “Comet.” Almazan, Blanchard says, “plays with such grace and beauty. We did five or six takes and all of them were so beautiful that it was a hard to choose just one.”
Each member of the group provides their own contributions to the album: Crumbly, the lovely and delicate “Jacob’s Ladder;” Scott, the forceful, rhythmically intense “No Borders Just Horizons;” Winston the lithe and intricate “Time To Spare;” and Almazan an “emotional roller coaster” dedicated to his mother, “Pet Step Sitters Theme Song,” which is later reprised as “Another Step.”
“We had so much fun playing that tune that we just couldn’t leave it,” Blanchard explains. I thought it showed the diverse nature of the group, when you see the directions that it goes into, totally different from the first take.”
In his role as mentor to his younger bandmates, Blanchard takes the mantle from his own onetime mentor, Art Blakey. Stressing the importance for young musicians to compose as well as improvise, Blanchard recalls the legendary drummer’s advice: “Art Blakey told us that composition was the path to finding your own voice. If you improvise, you don’t sit down and reflect coldly on what it is you’re playing because you’re moving so quickly onto the next thing. Whereas when you compose, you have to sit down and really contemplate what each note means and how you get from one to the next. That in itself will create a style.”