Blanchard is as well known for his film scores as he is for his jazz albums. Most recently he did the score for the move “Harriet,” which he describes as a great honor because of his respect for the film’s subject, Harriet Tubman, but its his work with filmmaker Spike Lee that has garnered him international attention.
Beginning with Lee’s break out film “Mo’ Better Blues,” where Blanchard played trumpet on the soundtrack, to creating the music for Lee’s latest “BlacKKKlansman” (which earned him a Grammy), Blanchard said their thirty-year “marriage” is based on mutual respect. Blanchard is working with Lee again on a new film, “Da 5 Bloods,” to be released later this year on Netflix.
Blanchard comes from a musical New Orleans family. He followed his boyhood friend Wynton Marsalis into the wider world of jazz and spent time in Lionel Hampton Orchestra and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Blanchard works now with a collective of dynamic musicians called the E-Collective, which includes Charles Altura on guitar, Fabian Amazan on piano, Oscar Seaton on drums and Dale Black on bass.
With the collective Blanchard has recorded about social issues including gun violence. He remembers recording live in Cleveland after a young African-American man had been shot by police there. He got into a conversation with a man who was listening and as they talked the man grew empathetic about his appeal to end gun violence. Blanchard says the man had a change of heart about guns right in front of him. He says music has the power to change how people feel in profound ways.
Blanchard says that he works hard, but when he is home his family is his focus. All of his children are grown now and he is proud to have been there for them as a father when they needed him. He blows off steam through boxing, which he calls a “serious cat and mouse game.” Boxing is like music to him. “My boxing instructor told said the six classic hand movements of boxing were like a scale on the piano,” he said. “Once mastered they can be employed to achieve desired results.”