The name of Terence Blanchard's superb new CD is ''Flow," and flow is what the trumpeter and his five young sidemen did, dazzlingly, in the first of their two benefit sets at Scullers on Thursday.
Blanchard, one of his musicians (saxophonist Brice Winston), and the band's road manager lost their homes to the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina, Scullers entertainment director Fred Taylor told the crowd beforehand, and the night's proceeds would be donated to hurricane relief.
The group opened with ''Wandering Wonder." A version of the song appears on ''Flow," but Blanchard wrote it years earlier in honor of various New Orleans musician friends. It opened with Blanchard's slow, atmospheric intro and grew in power as other instruments trickled in behind him, Winston taking the first solo on tenor sax with support coming mainly from Aaron Parks on piano and Kendrick Scott on drums. Parks took a later solo, a mix of Herbie Hancock-style harmonic inventiveness with a bit of percussive dissonance.
Next up was Ivan Lins's ''Nocturna," from Blanchard's previous CD, ''Bounce." Blanchard's trumpet again introduced the piece, and then guitarist Lionel Loueke played a lyrical solo, singing along with himself in a faint, wordless falsetto that called to mind Milton Nascimento and Richard Bona. Blanchard followed with yet more trumpet brilliance, stalking the stage as he built and released musical tension.
Loueke, a native of Benin, starred again on his composition ''Wadagbe," which he led off by tapping his guitar's hollow body like a percussion instrument. Then he added a West African chant as his melody, with his voice doubled via microphone effects. The rhythm instruments found a groove, and Blanchard and Winston joined them on trumpet and soprano, leading to a burning and passionate Winston solo.
The set ended with the new CD's title cut, which Blanchard explained was improvised in the studio, from Derrick Hodge's infectious bass line. At Scullers, Hodge also played a phenomenal upright bass solo on the tune.
''Remember to say a prayer for my city," said Blanchard, as the first set came to a close. ''It really needs you."