Harold Blanchard
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Harold Blanchard


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The best kept secret in music



WINTER PARK - Lunchtime jazz downtown by the Harold Blanchard Trio is the order of the day for the final "Bach Lunch" of the season, Tuesday, April 27 at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Sponsored by the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, the 45 minute concerts at noon are followed by an optional box lunch with the performers.

Blanchard, whose Trio includes bass guitar player "Chuck" Archard and Ron Cangro on drums, is perhaps the leading jazz pianist in Central Florida. Although he was born in New York City, he has spent many years in Guatemala and the Bahamas. Since 1983 he has served as adjunct professor at Stetson University in DeLand where his jazz improvisation course is required for music majors there.

Known internationally as a composer as well, Blanchard's works have been performed by such luminaries of the jazz world as Chick Corea, Bob James and Ron Carter. While studying at New York's Juilliard School of Music, he worked with noted concert pianist Jacques Abrams. His compositions for symphony orchestra and various other concert combinations have been performed around the world. He has also recorded with the legendary Quincy Jones.

- City of Winter Park

"CD Reviews"

"For his new album, jazz pianist Harold Blanchard created a now gentle, now effervescent song titled, "A Man Called Evans". It's a paean to one of his main inspirations, legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans. The new album by Blanchard's trio, and fans of classic-style jazz will be talking excitedly about a man called Blanchard.

The CD is a stunningly beautiful work, full of spry inventiveness and mellow elegance. Its lyricism will mesmerize casual listeners, and the technical intricacies of the musicians will startle jazz-heads. On the aforementioned tribute to Evans, Blanchard begins his journey with a plaintive, meandering melody, shape-shifts mid-song into a carefree vibe, then drifts back into a melancholy mood - a perfect musical metaphor for the too-brief life of Evans.

Along with Blanchard's world-class improvisations, the music is spiced by another not-so-secret weapon: Archard's many tasteful, melodic bass solos, which refresh these songs like spring showers. Throughout the CD, bassist Archard shows he has chops to spare, while his bass builds a Vulcan mind-meld to Blanchard's piano work. That is, there must be some sort of musical telepathy happening here. As Blanchard casually admitted last year in an interview with The News-Journal: "I'm after more melody . . . I'm trying to make jazz more digestible --that may be the word --for the listener."

But do not confuse melody or digestible for simplistic. With Chuck Archard on acoustic and electric bass and Ron Cangro on drums, Blanchard glides into an ultra-hip riff on "Off the Track", a song that boasts all the sauciness of a Dave Brubeck work. If there's any justice in the music world, Blanchard (a New Smyrna Beach resident) once again will gain attention on the national stage, as he did in 1985, when he recorded his "New Earth Sonata", with such titans as conductor Quincy Jones, keyboardist Chick Corea and flutist Hubert Laws".

"A Dressy Affair"

Nestled in the small, sleepy community of New Smyrna Beach Florida's shirtless and shoeless beach aficionados is a musical treasure, Smyrnan Harold Blanchard, who has put together a small group of jazz improvisation musicians, who frequently play to standing-room-only crowds at concerts up and down the east coast. They call themselves "The Harold Blanchard Trio & Suzie Park". Most recently, the Blanchard Ensemble performed a return concert at the Conference Center in Chesapeake, Va. It was a "dressy affair" and featured Blanchard at the piano, Chuck Archard on bass and acoustic guitar, Ron Cangro on drums and vocalist Suzie Park. There were nearly a thousand in attendance.

Most recently, the Blanchard Ensemble performed a return concert at the Conference Center in Chesapeake, Va. It was a "dressy affair" and featured Blanchard at the piano, Chuck Archard on bass and acoustic guitar, Ron Cangro on drums and vocalist Suzie Park. All are accomplished performers who work well together. Suzie hails from the Orlando area. "She scats like Ella Fitzgerald and is a first-rate vocalist who sounds a lot like Nancy Wilson," says Blanchard. "She sang at Chesapeake to standing ovations."

Bassist Chuck Archard is a jazz-artist-in-residence and on the faculty of Winter Park's Rollins College Jazz Improv Department. And drummer Ron Cangro's shots and licks come in at just the right place every time to maintain a superb backdrop of toe tapping tempo that moves each piece along.

Blanchard modestly describes the Chesapeake crowd's enthusiastic outbursts during and after their recent concert as "slightly embarrassing," but nonetheless "invigorating," as the group played from their extensive repertoire of jazz standards like Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe In Spring" and original compositions by Blanchard like "This One's For Charity" and "A South Wind Blew."

Harold and his lovely wife, Gladys, have resided in New Smyrna Beach since 1977 in a house built by Harold's father, who, while also being a musician, was a builder. "This is home," says Harold. "We love New Smyrna Beach."

Blanchard was born into a musical family in Harlem in 1930. His mother was a classical pianist and his father was a jazz performer who worked with the household names in the business like Erskine Hawkins and Cab Calloway.

"Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunsford - dad knew them all," says Harold. "And I came up in that environment - I heard their music in my house. I was hearing the classics, because dad also played classics and violin. So I grew up in the atmosphere of the two genres - classical as well as jazz."

Blanchard plays both classical and jazz, yet today. And he credits much of his classical foundation to Jacques Abrams, who, early on, gave him piano lessons. "Abrams was a great classical pianist who, in those days, performed at Carnegie Hall."

Harold says he's been in show business almost all of his adult life and remembers his hitch in the U.S. Army as a memorable part of his career performing at the piano. "I took part in soldier shows, and we covered the southwestern part of the U.S. at various Army camps," Harold recalls.

After his discharge and a stint at The Juilliard School, Harold met Gladys and they married in 1957. They spent several years out of the country, missioning for their church in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and then returned in 1977, when they took up residence in this area.

Harold's performance at the keyboard is as refreshing as ever. Blanchard stays busy. He currently gives private lessons to 21 of his own students. And he lectures on jazz improvisation at Stetson University one day a week.

You'll see him soloing around the area at private parties and local restaurants. So it seems that New Smyrna Beach isn't just any old beachside town anymore. Thanks to Harold Blanchard, we now have occasion once in a while to be at a "dressy affair" like those folks up north in Chesapeake.

- The Observer


"Dining With Harold Blanchard"

The Songs on the CD are:

Some Time Ago
Which Way The Wind
A La Fin
A Southwind Blew
Excerpts from The New Earth Sonata
One Week Last Summer
She Went Blue
In Search Of
Step This Way


Feeling a bit camera shy


Harold A. Blanchard has achieved considerable prominence in Central Florida as a jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. His compositions have been performed by outstanding jazz artists such as Chick Corea, Ron Carter and Bob James, to name a few.

He was born in New York City to parents who were musicians. His father played saxophone and clarinet with several big bands during the late 1930's and 1940's, including Cab Calloway and Ershine Hawkins. Harold received his early training in piano from his father beginning at age 6, the same year he debuted performing Chopin. At age 7 he began a 10-year study with Julliard School graduate Edwin Coates, and later, while studying at the Julliard School of Music, continued such training with famed American pianist Jacques Abram. Harold's first solo recital was performed when he was 14 years old, and his first New York recital occurred a year later.

Harold Blanchard has recorded with the legendary Quincy Jones and has performed throughout the world in places such as El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Bahamas, and the Middle East, playing for such dignitaries as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. He composed "Guatemala Connection" for CBS and was commissioned to compose "New Earth Sonata" which was recorded under a CBS-Masterwork's label in the summer of 1983. Additionally, he performed and recorded this large work with noted jazz pianist Chick Corea and world-renowned flutist Hubert Laws. "New Earth" spent 16 months on BillboardÂ’s Top 10. The recording of this 28-minute composition highlighted and demonstrated Blanchard's abilities as both a classical and jazz composer. Mr. Blanchard came to Central Florida in 1977 after spending eight years in Guatemala, Central America; and prior to that, ten years in Nassau, Bahamas. In these latter two places he earned a fine reputation as a teacher and performer, and continues to teach privately at his home in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Additionally, since the year 1983, he has been on staff as an adjunct professor at Stetson University in Deland, Florida. His jazz improvisation course is required for Stetson University music majors. Harold states: "I want to make jazz more digestible to the listener by inserting improvisation within a classical structure". During the ensuing years at Stetson he has composed a number of classical works. "The Concertino for Flute and Orchestra", was premiered by the Stetson University Orchestra. In 1989 his "Piano Concerto in E Flat" was commissioned by Stetson University's Artists and Lecturers Committee and premiered on November 17, 1989. In this same year Harold was elected as a member to the prestigious Pi Kappa Lambda Society. His composition “Explorations" for Violin Duo and Piano" was commissioned by Routa Kroumovitch and Alvaro Gomez and has been performed in Europe, Canada, Chile, and South America.

In 1991 Harold composed "Slightly Blue" for the Laclede Quartet. The "String Quartet No. 1" was commissioned for the Laclede Quartet in 1993 and premiered on January 23, 1994. "Innocent Meandering" was composed for guitarist Steve Robinson in 1993. It was recently included on Mr. Robinson's latest CD entitled "The American Record". Blanchard continues to compose and perform as a soloist and as the leader of his jazz group "The Harold Blanchard Trio and Suzy Park."