With Generations baritone saxophonist Brian Landrus has created an ambitious set of music for full orchestra that is based in jazz but also touches on classical music, hip hop and reggae, giving prominent position to instruments like harp and vibraphone to give his ensemble an airy, spacious sound.
It all begins with the five-movement "Jeru Concerto," Landrus' tribute to one of the icons of his instrument, Gerry Mulligan. It mostly consists of his baritone swirling through a lush, slow thicket of horns and strings but ends in an up-tempo section that emphasizes the airy, weightless feel of Landrus' ensemble writing with flutes and vibes soaring over the orchestra. "Orchids" has Brandee Younger's harp, Joe Locke's vibes and Landrus' bass clarinet dancing against over a subtle reggae beat while "The Warrior" sets shivery, syncopated strings against a bumpy African-flavored rhythm all leading into flowing, powerful solos by trumpeter Igmar Thomas and violinist Mark Feldman.
"Arrow In The Night" is another dramatic baritone feature pitting Landrus against slow, drawn-out strings while "Arise" is a surge of boisterous Latin-tinged energy with single instruments popping in and out of a massed ensemble cry. It sounds on the verge of chaos but is held together by a tricky hip-hop drum pattern laid down by Billy Hart. "Human Nature" combines elements of the previous two works. It starts with another lush carpet of slow strings but then goes into a more syncopated and surging mode from the orchestra with the flutes of Jamie Baum and Tom Christensen piping above the mass. "Ruby" has Landrus, Baum, Locke, Feldman and Ralph Alessi all soloing as the orchestra pursues another tricky beat and the CD ends with the subdued beauty of vibes and flute hovering above choppy, chugging strings on "Every Time I Dream."
It's hard to think of a comparable orchestral effort to this anywhere else in jazz. The musical colors Landrus uses resembles Bob Brookmeyer's and Maria Schneider's and his string settings call to mind Eddie Sauter's legendary work with Stan Getz but his use of modern, eccentric rhythms to underpin the orchestra puts him in a class by himself, especially when those rhythms are laid down by powerful players like Billy Hart and Lonnie Plaxico. In a strong period for creative large ensemble jazz, Brian Landrus has found an original way forward. This is an extraordinary piece of work.
Jeru Concerto, Mvt. 1; Jeru Concerto, Interlude; Jeru Concerto, Mvt. 2; Jeru Concerto, Mvt. 3; Jeru Concerto, Mvt. 4; Orchids; The Warrior; Arrow in the Night; Arise; Human Nature; Ruby; Every Time I Dream.
Brian Landrus: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Jamie Baum: flute, alto flute; Tom Christensen: oboe, flute; Darryl Harper: clarinet; Michael Rabinowitz: bassoon; Alden Banta: contrabassoon; Debbie Schmidt: horn; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Igmar Thomas: trumpet; Alan Ferber: trombone; Marcus Rojas: tuba; Brandee Younger: harp; Joe Locke: vibraphones; Billy Hart: drums; Justin Brown: drums; Mark Feldman: violin; Sara Caswell: violin; Joyce Hammann: violin; Meg Okura: violin; Lois Martin: viola; Mora Krohn: viola; Jody Redhage: cello; Maria Jeffers: cello; Jay Anderson: acoustic bass; Lonnie Plaxico: acoustic bass, electric bass; JC Sanford: conductor.
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