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In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans native son Terence Blanchard has created an impassioned song cycle, A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina), as his third album for Blue Note Records. (Since signing with the label in 2003, Blanchard has released two other critically-acclaimed albums, "i"Bounce and "i"Flow, the latter of which received two Grammy nominations in 2006. This 13-track emotional tour-de-force of anger, rage, compassion, melancholy, and beauty features Blanchard's quintet- pianist Aaron Parks, saxophonist Brice Winston, bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Kendrick Scott- as well as a 40-member string orchestra.
An important jumpstart for A Tale of God's Will was director Spike Lee's decision to document the aftermath of Katrina on film, in what turned out to be the four-hour award-winning HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke, which aired last year. Lee, who has enlisted Blanchard on numerous occasions to score his films, such as Mo' Better Blues, Malcolm X, and "i"Inside Man, tapped him once again for his documentary. Four of the tracks from the documentary were given new arrangements and expanded rounding out an album of nine new tracks inspired by New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina."h3"Amazon.com "p"For all the anger and devastation trumpeter Terence Blanchard has felt in the months since Hurricane Katrina ravaged his hometown of New Orleans--and the federal government failed it so shamefully--this elegiac orchestral work is remarkably clear-eyed, restrained, and, in the end, hopeful. That isn't to say pieces like "Funeral Dirge" and "Levees" don't impart deep and dark emotion. But even with strings at their back, Blanchard and the members of his first-rate working quintet (all of whom contribute compositions) never indulge in sentimentality. Blanchard's debt to Miles Davis is pronounced in his pinched lyricism and the economy of his virtuosic effects. The richly hued work washes over the listener, revealing more with each playing. --Lloyd Sachs