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I Hear Sparks: Tyler Blanton – Botanic

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Tyler Blanton‘s vibraphone strikes instantly, bouncing joyously through the vivacious gait of his “Already Here.” The track leads off his debut recording, the aptly-titled Botanic, with a verdant stroke of maturity.

At 29, this Brooklyn resident plays with texture, skill and sweetness.

I don’t hear the vibraphone often enough for my taste, so Botanic had my interest almost by default. Instead of merely holding it with his tones, however, Blanton engages on the bars from the outset and doesn’t let up.

“The vibraphone is a really exciting instrument,” Blanton says. “It’s still not the most commonly used instrument; it’s an unfamiliar sound to many, so it’s uncharted territory in many ways.”

Blanton takes to that mysterious ground with some quality support, too. Saxophonist Joel Frahm, bassist Dan Loomis and drummer Jared Schonig round out the tidy quartet. Drummer Richie Barshay and bassist Aidan Carroll join in on a couple of pieces as well.

After the aforementioned lead cut, Frahm’s saxophone introduces us proudly to the title track. The melody cuts through beautifully and Blanton’s playing provides tender accompaniment as the two instruments stroll alongside each other.

Blanton transitioned from the drums to the vibraphone, so it makes sense that his playing would take on a decidedly rhythmic quality. “Foreshadowing” introduces this aspect, with his instrumentation delivering punctuation marks to Frahm’s crisp presence.

It’s this interplay that really makes Botanic work. The harmony is by design, as Blanton explains: “I was most concerned with the end product of having a cohesive album of great music, not just a collection of great players thrown together for a blowing session.”

Botanic is a splendid debut, one that engages with the principles of unity and modesty. Blanton’s sense of reserved musicality keeps him from overshadowing the other players and his perceptiveness hooks the listener on the budding wonderland that awaits.

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