Seeing an early cut of Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” convinced composer Terence Blanchard that electric guitar should be the primary voice of the score. “When I saw those Afros and leather jackets and bellbottom pants, man, that brought me back to a period of my adolescence,” he says.
Set in the early 1970s, Lee’s film tells the true story of a black Colorado detective (John David Washington) who manages to join the Klan and has his white partner (Adam Driver) impersonate him at KKK meetings.
“I started thinking about Jimi Hendrix, about him playing the national anthem and how, in a crazy way back then, that was the most American thing I could think of — the rebellious nature of it, the classic melodic thing that we all stand for and have come to revere, but done his way.”
Blanchard, best known as a jazz trumpeter and bandleader, now has an electric band, the E-Collective; he recorded them playing the key elements of the score in his hometown of New Orleans. That’s Blanchard himself on electric piano. He added a 60-to-70-piece orchestra “for those quiet moments, and for those big sweeping emotional moments.”
The film marks Blanchard’s 19th collaboration with Lee. “I think this movie is the culmination of everything Spike has done in his career,” Blanchard says.