Brian Landrus Quartet: Traverse (2011)
The baritone saxophone: a low-down, honking, raw and randy piece of musical metal, isn't it? What about the baritone saxophone as a romantic, seductive and rather beautifully mellow instrument? Not so likely? Well, once it's placed in the hands of Brian Landrus, the romantic side of the instrument isn't just likely, it seems to be exactly how it was destined to sound. Landrus is a master of this rather unwieldy instrument, and leads a top-flight quartet on Traverse, a set of richly creative original tunes that reaffirms his Rising Star award in the 2010 Downbeat Critics Poll.
Traverse is straight-ahead jazz, melodic and accessible. This approach is somewhat in contrast to Landrus' previous Forward (Cadence Jazz Records, 2010), which drew on a wider range of styles. As a result, Traverse is equally stylish but perhaps more consistent and more immediately accessible. Pianist Michael Cain was also on Forward, but here Landrus and Cain are joined by a new bass and drums partnership: the vastly experienced and talented Lonnie Plaxico and Billy Hart, who both ensure that the tunes swing with passion.
The slow and smoky "Soul and Body" is a Landrus solo performance which clearly demonstrates his control, tone and command of the baritone's full range. It's followed by the quartet's take on Johnny Green's "Body and Soul," featuring Plaxico's lovely bass solo, as well as more exceptionally fine lead baritone from Landrus. On "Gnosis," Landrus moves over to bass clarinet, his playing just as impressive, while Cain delivers a sparklingly percussive solo. The album closes with the brief but beautiful "Soundwave," a slightly mournful duet between Landrus and Cain.
Traverse is the first release on Landrus' own BlueLand Records. Establishing a new record label may well seem like a rather risky step in these straightened times, but Traverse is a great debut for the label and bodes well for its futureand for the future of the baritone sax.
Track Listing: Traverse; Gnosis; Lone; Lydian 4; Soul and Body; Body and Soul; Creeper; Soundwave.
Personnel: Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Michael Cain: piano; Lonnie Plaxico: bass; Billy Hart: drums.
Record Label: BlueLand Records