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Forward by Brian Landrus

Brian Landrus is a talented, young, multi-reedist whose primary horn is the baritone saxophone. Though more attuned to the post-Coltrane sound, his technique and sound on the bari evoke great old school players such as Nick Brignola and Pepper Adams. He's also an extremely capable flutist and clarinetist. I particularly enjoyed his rich, woody bass, clarinet tone. Though clearly a modernist conversant with the more edgy variants of jazz and improvised music, Landrus' debut recording, Forward touches on free jazz ("Shadows," "Destinations"), and Afro-Latin jazz ("The Stream," "Classification"), while emphasizing intricate, slightly left-of-center - albeit tonal - post-bop and soul jazz-based sounds. Perhaps Landrus' boldest move is a deft solo bari piece, "Interpretations," that evokes the pensive, lonesome sound of British baritone saxophonist John Surman.

Landrus has assembled an impressive supporting cast of world-renowned Boston-based jazz musicians to assist on Forward. Everyone knows the superb drumming of Rakalam Bob Moses – he's been around since the mid-60s, working with his own groups as well as those of Gary Burton, Jack DeJohnette (in the band Compost), Dave Liebman, Tisziji Muñoz, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Larry Coryell, and countless others. Tenor saxophonist George Garzone is one of the most well-known and reputable jazz soloists of this age. Also an educator, he's passed on his knowledge to an entire generation, or three. Pianist Michael Cain is known for his work with Jack DeJohnette, Steve Coleman, Kip Hanrahan, and Ravi Coltrane, as well as a string of wonderful recordings as a leader. Allan Chase and John Lockwood are two of Boston's most valuable jazz artists, appearing on countless recordings by Dominique Eade, The Fringe, the Either/Orchestra, as well as leading their own groups.

Forward is an auspicious debut. Opening with a soulful rendition of Monk's ballad "Ask Me Now," the remainder of the CD is devoted to Landrus' stylistically diverse original compositions. Percussionist Tupac Mantilla contributes percolating Afro-Latin colors to several tracks – "The Stream" has a light, airy quality to it, but its insistent groove leads to fiery solos from Garzone and Landrus. "Classification" has a rocking boogaloo feel and a heavy bass ostinato. The oddly syncopated theme leads to excellent, in-the-pocket solos from Landrus (particularly impressive, here), Cain, and trumpeter Jason Palmer (on the out-chorus). The title track is a free-ish waltz featuring a dynamic alto sax solo by Chase, while "Beauty of Change" features the altoist at the front of a soulful saxophone chorale with Garzone and Landrus. "To Love and Grow" is a lush ballad-like piece that showcases Landrus' flute riding atop Moses' eloquent brushes and Mantilla's gentle percussion.

This excellent CD serves as an ideal showcase for an up-and-coming young reedman and composer. It's also a good example of the intelligent and eloquent modern jazz that seems to be coming from every corner of the world these days, not just from the places you'd expect – such as New York or Chicago.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Brian Landrus
  • CD Title: Forward
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Cadence
  • Rating: Four Stars
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