The Brian Landrus Quartet: Traverse (2011)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
There is a gravitas in the musical intellect of baritone saxophonist/bass clarinetist Brian Landrus that can only come from a wellspring emanating from the depths of a very bluesy soul. His is a singular voice and, as he sings in sensuous, velvet tones, his long magical lines swing and swagger with rhythmic grace. Although his music is, at its heart, conceptually simple, he rarely stays in the linear path of the melody for long, preferring to be seduced by the dancing arpeggios that beckon; thus, he is apt to turn the music inside out, or warp it so that it seems to unfurl in dazzling whorls. He also prefers to eschew the sharp edges of tonal color and timbral extravagancepreferring, like Ben Webster, long before him, to let his hot breath emerge and from his horn and dissipate with sullen colors, smeared with the occasional gravity of bubbling cheerfulness in the upper reaches of the register of his horns.
On Traverse, Landrus is considerably darker and more ponderous than expected even of a musician given to sudden breaks of humor, as he dapples his songs with harmonies culled from the brighter tones of his deep woodwinds. The maturation of his visionary perspective is eminently authentic on this wonderful album. Moreover, Landrus is twice blessed: once, with the spritely pianism of Michael Cain, driving the vision, ideas and rippling upper melodies of several songs; then, with the rumbling brilliance of Lonnie Plaxico's bass. Of course, the glue that holds it all together is drummer Billy Hart's skittering rhythms, bringing a shimmering energy to the whole set.
The music is characterized by the utter spontaneity of it all, as the musicians appear to traverse the relative unknown brought by the unfolding. "Gnosis," with its Satie-like inscrutability, is a leap of faith. The oblique ode to George Russell, "Lydian 4" is a perfect example of this ensemble leaping into the unknown with calculated risk. Meanwhile, "Body and Soul" and "Creeper" contain music of profound beauty and can be heard as a manifest of that which has almost not been heardsuch is the magic of invention.
Great music is defined as such because it can be heard, perceived and experienced on multiple levels, but the most delight is discovered in being soothed by the purity of the sound, the softness of emotion and the delicacy of touch. Here is music entwined with the infinite, its harmonies become a dramatic balancing of tensions between the dark horn and the bright piano, the throbbing bass and the shimmering of the cymbals. All this until the imaginary and improvised collides with the omnipresent concreteness of imagery, shattering conventions in magnificently explored music.
Track Listing: Traverse; Gnosis; Lone; Lydian 4; Soul and Body; Body and Soul; Creeper; Soundwave.
Personnel: Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Lonnie Plaxico: acoustic bass; Michael Cain: piano; Billy Hart: drums.
Record Label: BlueLand Records