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JazzTimes.com Exclusive: A Conversation with Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis
Author: Jeff Tamarkin
Date: September 4, 2013
At a party in Istanbul late in April, during the International Jazz Week celebrations, JazzTimes found New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard and saxophonist Branford Marsalis hanging out together in one of the many rooms of the host’s home. We asked them if they’d mind giving us a two-minute quote on the significance of the event and they did. And then they kept on talking—for another half hour. We had our handy digital recorder with us and let them go on, our reporter tossing in the occasional question but mostly just letting them riff. What follows is a verbatim transcript of their sometimes rambling, often hilarious, always astute conversation.
Why is International Jazz Day important?
Terence Blanchard: First of all, it’s amazing that there is such a thing as International Jazz Day. It means that, politically, the music has come a long way.
How do you feel about the event being held in a city such as Istanbul, which is not particularly known for its jazz?
Branford Marsalis: The whole thing about it is outreach. If you’re going to do this sort of thing, you bring it to places that have potential. Putting it in New York was kind of like, what’s the big whoop? But a place like Beijing would be a great place to put it, simply because you have large amounts of capital and that’s important. You have a large, productive workforce, and an expanding, productive workforce. It’s a good place to set up the infrastructure to make jazz education possible. Places like Istanbul, Beijing, Delhi—these are the places where this should be going.
TB: The thing that’s great about it being in Istanbul is you’re dealing with a country where, musically, they have had their own traditions that have withstood the test of time. Creatively there’s a lot of similarities between Turkish music and jazz in terms of improvisation, emphasis on the rhythmic culture and the historical.
Do you think we’ll start to see more great jazz coming out of places like Istanbul and Beijing?
TB: It’s already happening. There are some great young musicians here. Look, jazz has become like the NBA. You’re starting to see jazz musicians come from all over the place. They’re coming to America and doing a lot of great things.
BM: The word jazz has multiple meanings in different places. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is not a jazz festival anymore. It is gone. There’s room for other things; it’s that it’s become that first and everything else second. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival should really be the New Orleans Music Festival. The heritage part is completely gone.