REVIEW by Willard Manus
Blue Note has given Terence Blanchard room to stretch out on his latest release, FLOW. Blanchard, who got his start with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, has long been considered one of jazz's finest trumpet players--although the influential critic Gary Giddins knocked him for his "purring glissando and mannered self-consciousness"--but in recent years Blanchard has branched out into composing and band-leading.
Two years ago, Blanchard scored a success with BOUNCE, enabling him to get Blue Note's backing for a follow-up CD. Produced by Herbie Hancock (who also plays piano on two cuts), FLOW features much free-flowing jazz written by Blanchard and other members of his band, notably pianist Arron Parks, guitarist Lionel Loueke and bassist Derrick Hodge. Remember those names, because these three young musicians form the nucleus of Blanchard's band and provide him with a vigorous sound and bounteous ideas. Brice Winston on sax and Howard Drossin on synth also make important contributions on several of the eleven cuts.

Miles Davis kept renewing himself as an artist through the young Turks he hired as sidemen, and Blanchard is no different. You can forget everything Blanchard has done before when you listen to FLOW--r.i.p. purring glissando and mannered self-consciousness. In this the second act of his life, he plays with the attack and precision of Clifford Brown, but also adds a poetic, deeply felt dimension, a highly developed "state of consciousness" he calls Flow.

What Blanchard & Co. do is lay down an idea that changes direction as they begin to explore it. Blanchard calls it "visionary jazz." There is much tonal byplay, much taking off from the tune's dominant theme. When you mix that with a unique synth sound, African-oriented rhythms, disembodied vocals and chants, congas, billows of notes, you get what can only be called 21st century jazz. Miles would have been proud to have his name on this one.

This is the first time since the 1987 CD, Dexter Gordon's The Other Side of Round Midnight, that Hancock has produced a record other than his own. That was a feather in Blanchard's cap, getting Hancock to oversee his project. As he comments in his liner notes, "Sometimes, if we are blessed, we can encounter people whose lives reveal an inner order based on great spiritual insights. Many people continue to derive strength and serenity from prayer, people for whom a personally meaningful belief system provides goals and rules for intense flow experiences. Herbie Hancock is that extraordinary human being. I thank him for his vision and support and for telling the truth."