Walter Blanding embodies the spirit of a modern saxophonist – adept in jazz tradition, fluent in diverse styles, and a passionate educator. From his beginnings in New York City to his international acclaim, Blanding’s story is a testament to dedication, versatility, and pushing the boundaries of his instrument.
Blanding started playing saxophone at just six years old. Immersed in the vibrant New York jazz scene, he honed his skills under renowned musicians like Barry Harris and studied at LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. By his teens, he was already performing with his parents at the iconic Village Gate jazz club.
The 1990s saw Blanding’s career flourish. He was a founding member of the “Tough Young Tenors,” a group hailed for their fresh take on traditional jazz. He also became a sought-after session musician, collaborating with jazz greats like Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, and Illinois Jacquet. His first solo album, “Tough Young Tenors,” solidified his reputation as a rising star.
In the mid-90s, Blanding embarked on a life-changing experience, living and teaching in Israel. He immersed himself in the local music scene, forming his own ensemble, and fostering cultural exchange through jazz. This period earned him the moniker “Jazz’s Ambassador to Israel.”
Returning to New York, Blanding became a mainstay of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He was also involved in live performances of Wynton Marsalis’ ambitious “Blood on the Fields” project. While staying active in the NYC scene, Blanding also spent several years as a resident artist at the Jazz at Lincoln Center Shanghai, further solidifying his global musical connections,
Throughout his career, Blanding has consistently defied genre limitations. He has collaborated with artists across the spectrum, from jazz icons like Louis Hayes and Eric Reed to pop legends like Cab Calloway. His passion for exploration extends beyond performance, as he continues to actively teach and mentor young musicians. In 2022, he joined the MSU Music Faculty as the Associate Professor of Jazz Saxophone.
Today, Walter Blanding remains a vital force in the saxophone world. His technical prowess, soulful approach, and genuine passion for music continue to inspire audiences and fellow musicians alike. With his commitment to both tradition and innovation, Blanding’s legacy extends beyond the saxophone, solidifying him as a true ambassador of jazz, a dedicated educator, and a global connector of musical cultures.
Page last updated 2/11/2024.