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Flow (2005)

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Herbie Hancock

Two years before Flow, Terence Blanchard released Bounce, a departure from anything he had done in his already storied career. It was a seminal album, with the ideas of a musician 20 years his junior, but the skill and command of the jazz great that he had become. As a follow-up, Flow exhibits that no one better balances traditionalism, provincialism and contemporary aesthetics like Blanchard. This is almost immediately evident and highlighted on "Wadagbe," the album's third cut. Blachard's instantly recognizable, clarion-call horn-tone is still there, as is the native New Orleanian's homage to the Nola stomp and mardi gras Indian chants, plus a classically lyrical jazz-head and an end-song coda that singes. Guitarist Lionel Loueke, still in his early 30s at the time, wrote "Wadagbe" and Benny Golson tribute "Benny's Tune." Young drummer Kendrick Scott wrote album-standout "The Source." In fact, Blanchard handles sole writing duties of just one song on the album, "Wandering Wonder," allowing his younger sidemen's voices to shine. It is this young energy that keeps Blanchard and the album's producer, Herbie Hancock, sounding so vibrant and current. Hancock, years into receiving Social Security, turned in the piano solo of the year on "The Source" -- a percussive display so cerebral, violent and dramatic that it almost defies belief. Few of Blanchard's Young Lion peers from the 1980s are still relevant in any fresh way, which makes Flow, together with its predecessor Bounce, such a revelation. Blanchard isn't stuck making 60s tribute albums or recycling the sound of his youth. Instead, he's hooking up with the hip kids, sometimes directing traffic, sometimes going with the Flow. ~ Vincent Thomas