"When Spike told me he was going to use post-9-11 New York as a character in the film, it was a bit overwhelming at first," Blanchard says. "Then I thought, well, trust your instincts, trust your own musical judgment, and just create something. See what you come up with."
Beginning with 1990's Mo' Better Blues, Blanchard and Lee have collaborated on seven projects. Like most -- if not all -- of Lee's films, 25th Hour contains racially, politically, and socially charged thematic overtures within its primary plot about a convicted drug dealer (Edward Norton) coming to grips with his future during his final hours of freedom. But it was the movie's bold timeliness following 9-11 that fascinated Blanchard. "The whole thing he wanted to deal with was the fact that a lot of films and filmmakers were shying away from it," he says. "He wanted to make sure that, if he didn't comment on the event itself, that he would actually let people know where we were at times, that the story did take place after the 9-11 attack. Before anything else, that was one of the reasons he wanted to have all those images in the film."
Blanchard is quick to point out that, as rewarding as his film work has been, it doesn't keep him from playing live and feeding off the energy that he first tasted in the clubs of New York. "While I really enjoy doing the film thing, it's a different type of creative rush from the one I get from performing," he says. "The performing side of it is interesting because I get a chance to get that immediate rush from playing with great musicians and interacting with those musicians on a nightly basis. When I set out to be a musician, I thought of myself as a jazz musician and a bandleader. I don't think I ever really gave that up."