On For Now,
his tenth album as leader, multi-reed specialist Brian Landrus
gives voice to the many faces of romance, using as his means of expression a talented core quintet, amplified on several themes by a four-member string section, with arrangements by the notable opera composer Robert Aldridge. While Landrus plays four instruments including flute and alto flute, he sticks for the most part to baritone sax and bass clarinet, soloing on one or the other on almost every one of the session's thirteen well-drawn numbers (an exception is his seductive alto flute solo on "The Night of Change").
Landrus composed ten songs to complement a pair of jazz standards by Thelonious Monk
, "'Round Midnight" and "Ruby, My Dear" (the latter a graceful closing duet for Landrus on baritone and pianist Fred Hersch
), and Bronislaw Kaper's memorable theme from the film "Invitation." In addition to Landrus and Hersch, there are a handful of effective statements by trumpeter Michael Rodriguez
and one (on "The Wait") by bassist Drew Gress
. One member of the string component, violinist Sara Caswell
, steps forward to solo impressively on "Her Smile." It goes without saying that the rhythm section (Hersch, Gress, drummer Billy Hart
) is in capable hands.
Landrus' essays are invariably pleasing albeit somewhere short of exceptional, covering a temperate range from ballad to waltz, foxtrot to flights of fancy. His shrewd and perceptive solos lend them warmth and spirit, as do those of Hersch and Rodriguez. As noted, Landrus is heard most often on baritone (on which he excels), opting for alto flute on "Night of Change," bass clarinet on "For Now," "The Wait" and "For Whom I Imagined," each of which is well-suited to its delicate shadings.
If there is a shortcoming that must be addressed, it lies in the recording itself, which lacks the clarity and spaciousness that are hallmarks of most contemporary studio albums. The sound isn't muffled so much as compressed, not displaying the sort of expansive profile which lends many recordings pivotal animation and resonance. Once past that, what remains is a respectable hour of tasteful and well-designed modern jazz by musicians who excel at what they do and share that expertise with the listener.
The Signs; Clarity in Time; The Miss; JJ; For Now; ‘Round Midnight; Invitation; For Whom I Imagined; The
Night of Change; The Second Time; Her Smile; The Wait; Ruby, My Dear.