PRISM Quartet Meets Walter Blanding

Tenorist extraordinaire Walter Blanding—whose credits include collaborations with Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, and Aretha Franklin—joins PRISM Quartet for a program of music from the group’s ongoing Heritage/Evolution project. Launched in 2014 to celebrate PRISM’s 30th anniversary season, Heritage/Evolution offers a growing collection of distinctive pieces—a new fabric of saxophone repertoire—that draws on the instrument’s cross-cultural heritage. The works blend jazz with Western classical music as well as South Indian classical, Latin American folkloric, Bulgarian, and Romani musics, and more. PRISM has long kept new music at the forefront of its programming; Heritage/Evolution carries this mission forward, with collaborations that continue to defy expectations.

Also joining PRISM as a special guest artist is Joe Lulloff, Professor of Saxophone at Michigan State University, where Mr. Blanding serves as Assistant Professor of Jazz Saxophone.















The program features the Midwest premiere of Reflections by Blue Note recording artist Melissa Aldana, from PRISM’s upcoming Heritage/Evolution Volume 3 album. In her words, “Reflections is about transformation, a personal meditation on the stages of growth I experienced, and saw the world experience, over the course of the pandemic. My isolation and stillness enabled me to observe, clearly and for the first time in many years, the progression of the seasons, changes in the color of leaves, how they would fall just to be reborn stronger and more beautiful. My personal journey has been similar, as I worked though feelings of sadness, confusion, frustration, serenity, happiness and slowly transformed into the person I am today. I also wanted to know how other artists were expressing their feelings about nature, love, sadness, nostalgia, life… So I revisited some of my favorite poems by Julio Cortazar and Pablo Neruda, poems that resonate deeply with me and provided inspiration for my composition.”

Mr. Blanding also joins PRISM in works by Joe Lovano, Terell Stafford, Miguel Zenon, and Matthew Levy. Joe Lovano describes his work: “‘Super Sonix,’ is inspired by and dedicated to the genius and Third Stream pioneer Gunther Schuller, as well as modern jazz master Ornette Coleman, both of whom I’ve been associated. I also draw from my personal experiences playing within some great saxophone sections: The Woody Herman Band, Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Carla Bley Band, and The Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra. ‘Super Sonix’ is a piece which explores the natural beauty found in the harmolodic rhythmic tapestry of improvised music.”

Favor, a jazz waltz by trumpet virtuoso Terell Stafford was described by JazzTimes as “like fine whiskey, mellow but with bite” and “just a touch of churchiness.” Dedicated to his wife, Miguel’s Zenon‘s “The Missing Piece” is a ballad in an ABA song form in which a series of rich, slowly rocking chords supports a simple, lyrical melody. “Forbidden Drive” by Pew Fellow Matthew Levy, PRISM’s tenor saxophonist and resident composer, is inspired by a dramatic seven-mile trail that runs along the Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia’s historic Wissahickon Valley Park.

Reflections* by Melissa Aldana
Favor* by Terell Stafford, arranged by Jack Saint Clair
Forbidden Drive by Matthew Levy
The Missing Piece by Miguel Zenon
Super Sonix by Joe Lovano

*Midwest premiere
This program has been co-curated by Walter Blanding and PRISM Quartet

A limited number of free tickets are available courtesy or Meridian Winds—the official pro shop of the PRISM Quartet—on a first-come first-served basis. Click the ticket link above to gets yours while they last! Once gone, use the discount code for advance online purchases: PRISM5 for $5 off each ticket! Tickets available at door only on day of concert.

About Walter Blanding
For the past three decades as a music educator, performing artist, and composer, Walter has been bringing joy through music to people across the globe, from New York to China and everywhere in between. His career includes performances and recordings with some of the great artists of our times: Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Count Basie Orchestra, Cab Calloway, Branford Marsalis, Illinois Jacquet Big Band, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis Quintet, Roy Hargrove, Tony Bennet, New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Paris Radio Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and many others.

Walter was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in New York City. His artistry began to impress critics and listeners alike in 1991 with his debut on Tough Young Tenors, acclaimed as one of the year’s best jazz albums. Since then, his musical and spiritual presence on this earth has continued to evolve. In 1999, a feature article in Newsweek International described Walter as the “Jazz Ambassador to Israel.” Walter lived in Israel for four years and made a significant impact on the music scene, touring the country with his ensemble and with invited artists from the United States. His presence and influence in the country have inspired the making of the film “Caravan 841,” in which he was a featured actor. Walter also taught music in several Israeli schools and even opened his private school in Tel Aviv. With his dedication to enriching lives by using the arts as a means of cultural exchange, Walter served as the Jazz Ambassador in Shanghai, China, for Jazz at Lincoln Center Shanghai from 2018 to 2020.

His latest album, Fantasy in Blue, launched with this statement: “The music on this album is designed to bring us closer to understanding the beauty of our differences and the things we all have in common. We discover the profound depth and importance of cultural awareness and well-being.”

Walter Blanding serves as Assistant Professor of Jazz Saxophone at Michigan State University.

This program is presented with generous support from the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, and Meridian Winds.

PRISM Quartet welcomes all individuals to our concerts, and provides a variety of accommodations for those with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For specific accommodations, please contact or 215.438.5282.

PRISM selects only wheelchair accessible performance venues with dedicated seating locations for wheelchairs. Ramps and an elevator (access on Emmett St.) are permanent at The First Presbyterian Church. For any guest who requires a paid Personal Care Attendant (PCA), PRISM will provide a PCA Pass at no cost with a paid admission. Any guests with disabilities who require a PCA and wish to purchase advance tickets should contact PRISM at 215.438.5282 of to request a PCA Pass with the ticket.

Meridian Winds

First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti
300 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti, MI

November 19, 2023
7 PM

$25 general admissions, $20 seniors/students with ID (all fees included). A limited number of Free Tickets are available courtesy or Meridian Winds on a first-come first-served basis. Gets yours while they last! Once gone, use the discount code for online purchases: PRISM5 for $5 off each ticket!