Oscar-nominated musician Terence Blanchard vividly remembers the moment director Spike Lee told him the plot of his latest film.
“I thought he was drinking” he laughs about BlacKkKlansman. “I said, No man, come on!’ When I realised it was true, I was just totally floored.”
It’s the extraordinary real-life story of Ron Stallworth, the only black officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department of the 1970s, who set out to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Terence, a Grammy-winning trumpeter, has been nominated for Best Original Score while the film is also up for Best Motion Picture, Best Direction, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor for Adam Driver and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Award ceremony on Sunday.
Spike Lee has already picked up a BAFTA for his writing, during which he thanked “the great Terrence Blanchard”.
The friends have known each other for 30 years, with Terence, 56, starting out as a session musician on Spike’s film scores before going on to compose them. He’s worked on no less than 68 films including Malcom X, 25th Hour, Red Tails and Inside Man.
Now Terence is taking his jazz and blues band The E-Collective on a European tour of which Birmingham’s CBSO Centre is the only UK date, on Friday, March 29.
He likes to use his music to make powerful political statements, especially against the rising gun violence in America.
Ron Stallworth, a rookie cop, had so much courage to take on that monumental task. I met him at the Brooklyn premiere of BlacKkKlansman and he’s an ordinary man with extraordinary courage. It reminds me that we all have the power to affect change within our society, we should never forget that. We should never think that it’s bigger than us.
“The most startling point of BlacKkKlansman is at the end. You’re sitting there thinking about how awful it was in the 1970s, and then there’s a montage of recent events like the white supremacists rally in Charlottesville and President Trump talking about ‘very fine people on both sides’. That’s a wake-up call.
We are dealing with a tide of ignorance and bigotry and we can’t sit on the sidelines these days, you have to get up and take a stand.
“Ron put his life on the line, I’m just putting notes on a page! I feel like there’s more for me to do, but it’s a start.
“My music is a platform to keep the conversation going around gun violence. I expect audiences to experience very moving, powerful and creative music.”
Terence Blanchard and The E-Collective play at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham on Friday, March 29. Book through our Box Office via 0121 780 3333 or click here to buy online.