Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
The Skidmore Jazz Institute’s first guest artist of 2012 acknowledged the Institute students packing the front row at Zankel Music Center with a gesture that meant one of two things: “I see you” or “Watch this!” Now, anyone who’s ever watched “Top Gear” knows that the latter statement usually precedes a truly hideous accident. But this was trumpeter Terence Blanchard, whose previous feats of musical magic had pulled in a Standing Room Only Crowd, and the former artist-in-residence proceeded to leave us all slack-jawed one more time.
It wasn’t Blanchard who got the ball rolling, though: It was Brice Winston who launched the new piece “Time to Spare” with a frenetic figure buoyed by drummer Kendrick Scott’s brilliant work underneath Winston’s razor-edged tenor. The rest of the band fell in behind to establish the melody, but no sooner had they done that than Blanchard stepped to the back of the stage while Winston launched his first solo. It was a move typical of Blanchard, who’s always given his people plenty of room to move. Mind you, that freedom comes with the understanding that whoever takes the spotlight better carry the load and then some, because when Blanchard does come out of the blocks, anyone not working at the proper rate of creative speed is going to be steamrolled.