For more than three decades, Grammy-winning composer and performer Terence Blanchard has been an integral part of the films of Spike Lee. Since 1991, when they first collaborated on Jungle Fever, Lee and Blanchard have worked on 15 films together, culminating in Oscar nominations for Blanchard’s scores of Lee’s most recent releases, BlacKKKlansman (2018) and Da 5 Bloods (2020).
Like the many films that John Williams has scored for Steven Spielberg, the essence of Spike Lee’s singular cinematic vision is inextricably linked to Blanchard’s original music. So it’s no surprise that their long working relationship is the centerpiece of
The Movie Music of Terence Blanchard, a one-night-only event at David Geffen Hall on January 28. Conductor Thomas Wilkins will lead the New York Philharmonic and two vocal soloists, while Blanchard himself will be playing the trumpet with his own quintet, The E Collective, which also includes Charles Altura on guitar, Fabian Almazan on piano, David Ginyard on bass, and Oscar Seaton on drums.
The evening will undoubtedly cover the wide range of the music that Blanchard has written for Lee’s films, which have encompassed subjects as varied as the Oscar-nominated biopic, Malcolm X (1993); an adaptation of Richard Price’s
novel, Clockers (1995); and a drama about four Buffalo Soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II, Miracle at St. Anna (2008).
The Movie Music of Terence Blanchard is one of many events that have been held at Lincoln Center over the past year as part of its first-ever cross- campus exploration of a single artist, See Me as I Am: Lincoln Center’s Year- Long Celebration of Terence Blanchard. Shanta Thake, Ehrenkranz Chief Artistic Officer of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, said, “Terence is the true embodiment of a multidisciplinary artist and creator, and we are thrilled to be coming together as a campus to center this incredible artist in such a unique way."
Blanchard already had a deep relationship with Jazz at Lincoln Center—which will be presenting a career retrospective of Blanchard’s jazz music on March 1 and 2 at the Rose Theater that includes special guests Benny Green, Christian McBride, and Ben Wendel—as well as the Metropolitan Opera, which opened its 2021–22 season with Fire Shut Up in My Bones, the first opera by a Black composer to premiere at the Met.
And See Me as I Am has already featured several presentations by Lincoln Center constituents, showing the remarkable breadth of Blanchard’s musical achievements. He returned to the Met last spring for his opera, Champion, and Film at Lincoln Center screened films for which he contributed the music, including Eve’s Bayou (1997) and Love and Basketball (2000). Last month, as part of its New Dances: Edition 2023, The Juilliard School presented I Dare … You, a world premiere choreographed by Hope Boykin to Blanchard’s “I Dare You” from his 2021 album Absence, which was conceived as a tribute to Blanchard’s mentor, Wayne Shorter.
In October, Alice Tully Hall hosted the program Island Prayers, a multi- composer extravaganza in which the adventurous Turtle Island Quartet played New York premieres of works co-commissioned by Lincoln Center by the quartet’s founder, violinist David Balakrishnan; Rhiannon Giddens; Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate; and Blanchard himself, who composed Turtle Trajectory for the quartet’s performance.
“I’m overjoyed at the idea of bringing all of my musical experiences together to make one statement about the importance of human connection,” Blanchard said when See Me as I Am was first announced. “Every part of this residency reflects how much I love music on a broader level—I can’t help but feel blessed with how I’ve been to be able to spread my wings.”