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BRIAN LANDRUS ORCHESTRA

Generations

Blueland Records BLR-2017

 

 

 

  1. Jeru Concerto, Movement 1

  2. Jeru Concerto, Interlude

  3. Jeru Concerto, Movement 2

  4. Jeru Concerto, Movement 3

  5. Jeru Concerto, Movement 4

  6. Orchids

  7. The Warrior

  8. Arrow In The Night

  9. Arise

  10. Human Nature

  11. Ruby

  12. Every Time I Dream

    Brian Landrus, still only 39 years old, is an acknowledged master of what are known as the low wind instruments. Whereas on his previous disc, namely The Deep Below (2015), Landrus performed with his trio, this new departure sees him in the context of a full-scale 25-piece orchestral ensemble. The Deep Below had a couple of jazz standards and even a Sinatra ballad, alongside his own writing. This time around, the compositions are exclusively by Landrus and he confines himself to baritone sax and bass clarinet as compared with four different instruments on the earlier disc. The new album reflects, no doubt, his work for a PhD in classical composition at Rutgers University (he already holds Master's degrees in jazz composition and jazz saxophone). The music that results is by no means limited to one genre but brings to bear the gift he has for absorbing and using a multitude of musical influences, both from the past and from the contemporary music scene. Landrus also pays tribute through his music on this album to several members of his family. His orchestra boasts some outstanding performers, including Ralph Alessi, Joe Locke, Mark Feldman, Meg Okura and one time Jazz Messenger, Lonnie Plaxico, plus veteran drummer Billy Hart. Plaxico and Hart, of course, made up the Landrus trio on his previous CD.

    You could say that the best was saved until last, in that Every Time I Dream, which is the final track on the album, manages to exceed even the generally high quality of what has gone before. It is an appealing and poignant ballad which draws the best out of the three soloists. The skilful Joe Locke on vibes, the ever-stylish Ralph Alessi on trumpet and the accomplished Mr. Landrus combine to pleasing effect as the melody ebbs and flows. A word of praise for the strings, too, at this point. The five tracks which begin the album are thematically linked under the heading Jeru Concerto, devised by Brian for his son who was not yet born when the initial concept was developed. The great baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, of course, was known informally as Jeru, and Landrus' son is his namesake. All of the movements have merit but I especially responded to the first movement where Landrus solos with ease and warmth, backed by fine orchestral accompaniment. There is much to be said, too, for movement three where there is further relaxed playing on a beautiful piece. Movement five, meanwhile, includes both energy and more peaceful moments.

    The dreamy Orchids features interplay between Brandee Younger on the harp and Landrus on bass clarinet. On occasions there is what sounds like a reggae rhythm. The melody builds to a climax before fading. The Warrior describes what the liner notes call the 'gentle strength' of Brian's father. As such, it proves to be both meditative and tender with four soloists including the fragile and sparse tone of Igmar Thomas on trumpet and the gifted Joe Locke on vibraphone. Arrow In The Night takes its title, and inspiration, from a Buddhist saying contrasting good men with bad, the latter moving 'unseen like arrows in the night'. Landrus solos on baritone sax and produces something evocative, moving and brief. Arise is an interesting experiment with the entire orchestra to the fore. Landrus throws into the mix strands of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and Latin jazz. Human Nature allows scope for strong and surging orchestral work as well as showcasing the two flautists, Jamie Baum and Tom Christensen, and the dependable Ralph Alessi on trumpet. Ruby celebrates the curiosity, spirit and charm of the composer's daughter. With five soloists, including the ebullient Joe Locke on vibes, it's a musical treat.

    Brian Landrus is to be congratulated on his ambition and his evident desire to keep pushing the boundaries. On the evidence of this disc, we can anticipate more innovative music in the coming years from this creative composer and instrumentalist

  13. Jamie Baum - Flute, alto flute

    Tom Christensen - Oboe, flute

    Darryl Harper - Clarinet

    Brian Landrus - Baritone sax, bass clarinet

    Michael Rabinowitz - Bassoon

    Alden Banta - Contrabassoon

    Debbie Schmidt - Horn

    Ralph Alessi, Igmar Thomas - Trumpet

    Alan Ferber - Trombone

    Marcus Rojas - Tuba

    Brandee Younger - Harp

    Joe Locke - Vibraphone

    Billy Hart - Drums (tracks 7, 9)

    Justin Brown - Drums (tracks 1-6, 8, 10-12)

    Mark Feldman, Sara Caswell, Joyce Hammann, Meg Okura - Violin

    Lois Martin, Nora Krohn - Viola

    Jody Redhage, Maria Jeffers - Cello

    Jay Anderson - Acoustic bass (tracks 1-5, 7, 8, 10-12)

    Lonnie Plaxico - Acoustic bass, electric bass (tracks 6, 9)

    J. C. Sandford - Conductor

    James Poore

 


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