A new addition to an already heady bunch of tenor stars on Criss Cross, including Walt Weiskopf, Tim Warfield, Seamus Blake, and Ralph Lalama, 28-year-old saxophonist Walter Blanding is making good on the promise he showed back in 1991 on the collective project Tough Young Tenors. His debut as a leader, The Olive Tree, finds Blanding in familiar company, with trumpeter Kisor a buddy from high school and both pianist Farid Barron and bassist Rodney Whitaker chums from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
The writing and overall approach here is akin to Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis circa 1966, with the former’s “Charcoal Blues” even part of the program. One of four originals, Blanding’s own “My Little Sunflower” has a tinge of the suspended animation that marks such Shorter/Davis classics as “Fall” and “Nefertiti.” The title track is far more distinctive, with a Middle Eastern twist to the loping melody.
As a tenor saxophonist, Blanding puts forth a full and robust tone, shone to great advantage on a quartet reading of “Jitterbug Waltz” and a ballad performance of “The Nearness of You.” Kisor more than adds a bit of tonal variety on the tracks that put him on the front line. Furthermore, the rhythm section locks in tight, providing far beyond perfunctory support. Barron, in particular, is an exciting new voice who we’ll hopefully be hearing more of in the future. The same should be said for Blanding who makes a strong maiden voyage here.
Track Listing: Never Too Late, My Little Sunflower, Worry Later, The Olive Tree, Jitterbug Waltz, The Nearness of You, Charcoal Blues, Out of Nowhere, One Day Before Tomorrow (55:34)
Personnel: Walter Blanding- tenor saxophone, Ryan Kisor- trumpet, Farid Barron- piano, Rodney Whitaker- bass, Rodney Green- drums