BRIAN LANDRUS KALEIDOSCOPE, MIRAGE

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There’s a matter-of-fact dignity to the bass saxophone, a horn of magnificent size and heft that produces the lowest notes from a brass instrument, which makes for a comfortable fit with six foot, seven inch saxophonist Brian Landrus. A prodigious writer and bandleader originally from Reno, Nevada, the saxophonist started playing tenor sax in his teens with the Coasters and the Drifters, two bands that schooled the young Landrus in R&B, soul and pop music styles. Back then, Landrus says that he often had his butt kicked nightly by pros like that, but admits they gave him an irreplaceable education that informs much of his writing today.  Switching to baritone on the advice of teacher and mentor, Bob Brookmeyer, Landrus’ authority on that sax, bass clarinet and other like reed instruments definitely strike a chord on Mirage, an understated masterpiece performed by a riveting quintet of jazz musicians with a string section conducted by Ryan Truesdell (Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans.)

Mirage (Blueland Records) sports a lucid, contemporary framework with a solid lineup of original tracks -- Landrus taps a melodic vein that benefits from soulful improvising by ace guitarist Nir Felder and keyboardist Frank Carlberg. Sonically lush, Mirage mixes rapturous harmonics with tunes that clearly have emotional significance for Landrus.  There’s an organic flow embodied in the sensitive “Someday” and the love song that is “Three Words.” The beautiful title track is full of good feeling, from the opening chorus of strings to the modern, low-slung groove anchored by Lonnie Plaxico and Rudy Royston. Carlberg gets a choice Fender Rhodes feature on “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” while the reggae-tinged “I’ve Been Told” and backbeat-driven “Jade” balance strings against Landrus’ horn to create a sound that’s not coincidentally reminiscent of early dates by Grover Washington, Jr.
 
photo by Fred Lebayle
The charts that Landrus wrote for Mirage treat strings (there are four credited players, led by violinist Mark Feldman) like a sixth instrument, which gives the leader another voice to interact with his horn and the rhythm section. While there are honorable swathes of R&B, soul and contemporary jazz folded into the mix, Landrus has an uncanny ability to weave serene and gorgeous jazz melodies together that make an ultimate connection directly to the heart of the listener. (12 tracks; 57 minutes)

On the afternoon of July 2, 2013 I had the privilege of conducting an interview with Brian Landrus and Ryan Truesdell, meeting with them at Joe Papp’s Public Theater prior to Brian’s sound check for his CD release performance of Mirage. To read more about the album along with his whirlwind travel adventures as part of Esperanza Spalding’s touring band, find it on my August 5 posting.

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JAZZ IN SPACE: BRIAN LANDRUS KALEIDOSCOPE, MIRAGE

Monday, August 5, 2013

BRIAN LANDRUS KALEIDOSCOPE, MIRAGE

-->
There’s a matter-of-fact dignity to the bass saxophone, a horn of magnificent size and heft that produces the lowest notes from a brass instrument, which makes for a comfortable fit with six foot, seven inch saxophonist Brian Landrus. A prodigious writer and bandleader originally from Reno, Nevada, the saxophonist started playing tenor sax in his teens with the Coasters and the Drifters, two bands that schooled the young Landrus in R&B, soul and pop music styles. Back then, Landrus says that he often had his butt kicked nightly by pros like that, but admits they gave him an irreplaceable education that informs much of his writing today.  Switching to baritone on the advice of teacher and mentor, Bob Brookmeyer, Landrus’ authority on that sax, bass clarinet and other like reed instruments definitely strike a chord on Mirage, an understated masterpiece performed by a riveting quintet of jazz musicians with a string section conducted by Ryan Truesdell (Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans.)

Mirage (Blueland Records) sports a lucid, contemporary framework with a solid lineup of original tracks -- Landrus taps a melodic vein that benefits from soulful improvising by ace guitarist Nir Felder and keyboardist Frank Carlberg. Sonically lush, Mirage mixes rapturous harmonics with tunes that clearly have emotional significance for Landrus.  There’s an organic flow embodied in the sensitive “Someday” and the love song that is “Three Words.” The beautiful title track is full of good feeling, from the opening chorus of strings to the modern, low-slung groove anchored by Lonnie Plaxico and Rudy Royston. Carlberg gets a choice Fender Rhodes feature on “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” while the reggae-tinged “I’ve Been Told” and backbeat-driven “Jade” balance strings against Landrus’ horn to create a sound that’s not coincidentally reminiscent of early dates by Grover Washington, Jr.
 
photo by Fred Lebayle
The charts that Landrus wrote for Mirage treat strings (there are four credited players, led by violinist Mark Feldman) like a sixth instrument, which gives the leader another voice to interact with his horn and the rhythm section. While there are honorable swathes of R&B, soul and contemporary jazz folded into the mix, Landrus has an uncanny ability to weave serene and gorgeous jazz melodies together that make an ultimate connection directly to the heart of the listener. (12 tracks; 57 minutes)

On the afternoon of July 2, 2013 I had the privilege of conducting an interview with Brian Landrus and Ryan Truesdell, meeting with them at Joe Papp’s Public Theater prior to Brian’s sound check for his CD release performance of Mirage. To read more about the album along with his whirlwind travel adventures as part of Esperanza Spalding’s touring band, find it on my August 5 posting.

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