13 March 1962, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. One of several brilliant young musicians emerging from New Orleans in the 80s, Blanchard began playing piano at the age of five and sang with a vocal group, the Harlem Harmony Kings. He took up the trumpet at the age of eight and began lessons in his early teens while studying at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts under Ellis Marsalis, father of Blanchards contemporaries and fellow New Orleanians, Branford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis. A year later, Blanchard was studying composition and in 1980 went to Rutgers University. That same year he joined Lionel Hampton, with whom he played for two years before replacing Wynton Marsalis in Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers. At the same time, Donald Harrison, a fellow student from his days in New Orleans, replaced Branford in the Messengers.
Blanchard stayed with Blakey until 1986 when he formed his own band with Harrison. In the 90s, he became involved with films, writing scores for Spike Lees School Daze, Jungle Fever and Malcolm X the documentary Four Little Girls and for BBC Television documentary about black migration, The Promised Land. His status continues to rise, notably on recent works including Romantic Defiance and The Heart Speaks. The latter featured some outstanding vocals from the Brazilian Ivan Lins, with one reviewer describing the meeting as Rio meets New Orleans. 1999s Jazz In Film paid tribute to the much-maligned genre of film scores.
A technically gifted musician, Blanchards playing displays a marked awareness of the lyricism of some of the early bop trumpeters, such as Clifford Brown. Although much less well known than Marsalis, Blanchards work displays a similar restraint but stronger jazz feeling.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.