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Terence Blanchard Gives Spike Lee's Movies Their Soul

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Tuesday February 19, 2019

From Vanity Fair

How Terence Blanchard Gives Spike Lee’s Movies Their Soul
By: K. Austin Collins

[Blanchard] calls BlacKkKlansman, Lee’s latest film, to life with a groovy wink: a subtly wry but politically earnest score that, like the rest of his work, ranges from an ambitious orchestral sound to the jam-laden jazz-ensemble work that defines much of his career. Blanchard is a five-time Grammy winner for both his ensemble work and his work as a soloist. He’s released 22 albums as a bandleader alone’“to say nothing of other ambitious projects, such as the 2013 opera Champion, about the life of black welterweight champion Emile Griffith. But the best-score nod he got for BlacKkKlansman in January is only his first Oscar nomination.

Vanity Fair: This seems, on your end, like an ambitious score. There’s a 70-something-person orchestra plus your jazz ensemble, and a very’“I would imagine’“complicated subject to find a sound for.

Terence Blanchard: Yeah. Well, I’ve been writing for a large orchestra for a long time. I mean, man look, when we did Malcolm X it was 70 pieces. Spike’s always trying to get that sound. That’s the filmmaker side of him. He wants his films to be compared with the greatest of all time. So he’s like, ‘No, I want an orchestra. I want that Universal sound. I want to have that cinematic sound.’ So he’s fought for that. Spike is one of the few directors that I know that, while he’s shooting, he’s saving money, and he’s aware of his budget, to save money for the post-production process.

And with BlacKkKlansman, yeah, I was nervous about it. I was nervous about what would be the sound. But when I first saw the first cut, Jimi Hendrix popped in my head. There was something about the way John David Washington walked into that first scene with that leather jacket and those jeans and that afro, and’“listen, I was born in 62, so the 70s was my time. That [song] literally popped in my head right away, for some reason. And I kept thinking that we don’t wanna try to emulate Jimi. But we do want to be influenced and inspired by him. That’s the most important thing.

Read the interview in full here