Label/Year: BlueLand Records, 2017
Lineup includes - Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Alan Ferber: trombone; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Igmar Thomas: trumpet; Marcos Rojas: tuba; Mark Feldman: violin; Jamie Baum: flutes; Tom Christensen: oboe, flute; Michael Rabinowitz: bassoon; Alden Banta: contrabassoon; Debbie Schmidt: horn; Brandee Younger: harp; Joe Locke: vibraphone; Lonnie Plaxico: electric and acoustic bass; Jay Anderson: acoustic bass; Billy Hart: drums, and more.
Brian Landrus, a true prodigy in the art of playing deep-toned woodwind instruments, governs an amazing orchestra on Generations, a solid work sparkling with thoughtful arrangements and unusually fetching sounds.
The band lineup includes illustrious artists known for their creative contemporary vein such as flutist Jamie Baum, trombonist Alan Ferber, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, tuba player Marcos Rojas, violinist Mark Feldman, vibraphonist Joe Locke, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, and drummer Billy Hart, among many others.
“Jeru Concerto”, a well-worked opus divided into four movements, opens the record with a strength of character. On the first movement, there’s consonance in the musicians’ activity. However, nothing here is too obvious and the layered sounds make us search incessantly for the essence of the music. Before the soft narration of the second movement, voiced with contrapuntal splendor, there’s a one-minute interlude where Landrus shows his impeccable command of the circular breathing technique.
Oscillating between the pastoral and the metropolitan, the third movement continues to live in a sort of contemplation, even when the orchestration is intensified. It leads to the more extrovert fourth movement, where Landrus gives wings to his imagination as he draws phrases with an impressive tonal range from his potent baritone. The impetus is seamlessly refrained halfway to open up airy melodic spaces that regain an enthusiastic consistency on the final stretch.
The reggae accentuation of “Orchids”, whose foundation is reinforced by a diligent bass groove, gains extra coloration with the preponderant presence of Brandee Younger’s harp and the bandleader’s bass clarinet, working in conjunction with emotional horn designs.
Enigmatic and searching, “The Warrior” is a shifting piece whose storytelling is initiated with terse violin strokes in counterpoint with reed movements and occasionally supported by Locke’s soft textures. This phase lasts just until trumpeter Igmar Thomas steals the show, employing a few lines à-la Miles Davis over a mild swinging flow. Comprehending continual floating currents of instrumental skillfulness, the tune also goes through some triumphant phases enriched by bold rhythmic thrusts.
“Arise" and “Human Nature” are among the most satisfying compositions. The former, having Plaxico’s electric bass and Rojas’ tuba paving the ground, brings a panoply of reed instruments acting collectively over an invigorating rhythm; the latter uncovers its true nature by playing with light and darkness, dancing effusively through singable flute melodies, soaring violin streaks, and deep-voiced horn traces.
The final piece, “Every Time I Dream”, brings up Bobby Hutcherson’s exquisite moods attached to a fervent desire to sound free. Nonetheless, it lies within the structural limits imposed.
Since the surprising factor never ceases, the super intriguing Generations is not an easy album to assimilate all at once. Even after repetitive listening, our gratification is magnified whenever we plunge into its astonishing ambiances.
Brian Landrus proves to be an extremely skillful composer and a first-class multi-reedist.
06 - Orchids ► 09 - Arise ► 10 - Human Nature