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Forward is a magical sonic journey charted by reeds and woodwinds master, Brian Landrus and explores the tonal depths of the ocean of sound that fewer saxophonists seem to traverse these days. Landrus plays baritone saxophone and bass clarinet on this adventure in sound, as well as alto flute, all of which makes for a breathtaking palette of colors when he is done. Landrus is a poet who has a mastery of tone, something he explores with gravity and a very gentle swing. His voice is singular, just a tad tremulous as he expels hot breath from deep within his guts, dallying over choice notes in a phrase. Landrus rushes arpeggio-like through other notes as he makes them shimmer and ripple in line after line. Sometimes he murmurs low down inviting his bassist and drummer to join him as he creates an orchestral kind of pedal point to propel the rest of the tune.
On this magnificent set, Landrus is joined by Harald Genzmer on tenor saxophone, Allan Chase on alto saxophone and Jason Palmer on trumpet. This trio enables Landrus to polish the melodies of his songs until they have a burnished glow to them. Pianist Michael Cain shimmers just below the surface, animating the harmony with ingenuity; on Thelonious Monk's plaintive "Ask Me Now," he adds a minimal but exquisite solo, which breathes as it darts and probes the expanding boundaries of the song. Bassist John Lockwood sways and punctuates the melody with harmonic grandeur. Drummer Bob Moses expounds his wizardry time and time again throughout the set, especially in his superlative brushwork on the Monk chart. Percussionist Tupac Mantilla provides the added color.
Landrus displays an epic narrative style of writing here, often accompanying the sonic tapestry with visual elements traced out of dense clouds of sound and color. On "The Stream," the power and fluid movement of a source of a larger river is captured in a frieze and then released as it charges over silt and stone, ever onward. "Shadows" navigates its way constantly through dark and light as Landrus' crepuscular introductory statements brighten. Then Michael Cain cracks open the sky to reveal a tableau of dancing shadows when the bass clarinet returns with arco bass and thundering percussion. "To Love and Grow" is a svelte ballad that swaggers sensuously in and around the alto flute, punctuated by Moses' brushes and the tinkling of Mantilla's bells, shells and sundry gourds. And so on, from one graphic beauty of a track to another, until the set reachesliterallyits "Destination," another choppy number led by the percussionists.
Brian Landrus is a voice to watch out for as he charts a creative course in contemporary music. What sets him apart is the lyricism of his compositions and his ability to tell interesting, vividly illustrated stories. This album serves as a happy omen of what should surely follow in the near future as Landrus' star begins to rise ever so majestically.
Track Listing: Ask Me Now; The Stream; Shadows; To Love and Grow; Classification; Forward; Beauty of Change; Interpretations; Destination.
Personnel: Brian Landrus: baritone sax, bass clarinet, alto flute; Michael Cain: piano; John Lockwood: bass; Rakalam Bob Moses: drums; Tupac Mantilla: percussion; George Garzone: tenor sax (2, 7); Allan Chase: alto sax (6, 9); Jason Palmer: trumpet (5, 6, 9).
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