Multi-instrumentalist and composer Brian Landrus' Mirage
is his most accomplished, and thematically unified recording to date. The music shimmers like the phenomenon of the title as pastel colored harmonies of a string quartet bleed into the deep, earthy tones of low reeds and the fusion-like sounds of the band, Kaleidoscope.
On "Don't Close Your Eyes" the evocative romanticism of the chordophones and soulful swagger of the rhythm section seamlessly blend enhancing its emotional reach. The crystalline ring of pianist Frank Carlberg
's Fender-Rhodes brings a touch of 1970s nostalgia. Landrus' own baritone saxophone undulates in a lilting and intelligent improvisation that maintains the mellifluousness of the tune.
Landrus not only uses the strings as a group to accentuate his compositions but also incorporates individual members of the quartet into the various pieces. For instance, on the wistful "Sammy" a Levantine mysticism imbues violinist Mark Feldman
's pensive, opening duet with Landrus' baritone. Landrus goes on to create a yearning, tender, spontaneous poetry with the help of guitarist Nir Felder
's intricate and resonant lines as the two echo each others' ideas and embellish them.
Landrus is known for his mastery of and his warm, rich and organic voice on the baritone sax but on the current release he expands his pallet to other, lower octave, woodwinds. His meditative and haunting unaccompanied contralto-clarinet interlude "Reach" has him exploring the melodic range of this rarely heard instrument with quiet intensity. The short track also serves as a palate cleanser between the ardently lyrical first part and the cooler, funk infused second half.
On "Jade," Feldman's agile violin dances, with Djangoesque flair, around the group's, R&B flavored rhythms. Bassist Lonnie Plaxico
dynamic and complex, electric reverberations anchor his band-mates with sophisticated subtlety as Landrus' conversational bass clarinet maintains strong melodic sense and jazz sensibility. Landrus switches with ease and adroitness between the quavering bass clarinet to breathy bass flute on the vaguely Caribbean "I've Been Told." The reggae-ish melody features Felder's roughhewn, rootsy groove and allows drummer Rudy Royston
his turn in the spotlight with a rollicking and boisterous solo.
"Kismet," Landrus' alluringly contemplative solitary bass saxophone extemporization closes this delightfully stimulating, album. It is an apt conclusion to an intelligent and vibrantly chromatic work that is innovative and forward looking while it maintains a firm foothold in multiple traditions. What is perhaps, most remarkable, is that what had the potential to become a messy hodgepodge of influences in Landrus' resourceful and creative hands has become a singular gem with a wide appeal.
Arrival; Sammy; Don't Close Your Eyes; A New Day; The Thousands;
Someday; Reach; Mirage; I've Been Told; Three Words; Jade; Kismet.
Brian Landrus: baritone and bass saxophones, bass and contra-alto
clarinets, bass flute; Rudy Royston: drums; Nir Felder: guitar; Frank
Carlberg: piano, Rhodes; Lonnie Plaxico: electric and acoustic bass;
Mark Feldman: violin; Joyce Hammann: violin; Judith Insell: viola; Jody
Redhage: cello; Ryan Truesdell: conductor.