The Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope: Mirage

The Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope: Mirage
Title: Mirage
Label: CD Baby

Composer Brian Landrus, Master of Low Reeds, Creates Chamber Jazz Masterpiece with Mirage, a Shimmering Album with his Quintet Kaleidoscope and String Quartet Featuring Guitarist Nir Felder, Bassist Lonnie Plaxico, Drummer Rudy Royston, Pianist/Keyboardist Frank Carlberg, Violinists Mark Feldman, Joyce Hamman, Violist Judith Insell, & Cellist Jody Redhage. Conducted by Grammy Award-nominated Ryan Truesdell "Mr. Landrus, who is 34, stands out here for the poplike angle of his music... this album forgoes highbrow connotation in favor of a vibrant melodic accessibility ...the tenderness in his playing feels as warm and accessible as his writing." - Nate Chinen, New York Times "Music that inspires with an epic nature. Melodies crafted with the precision and beauty of stained glass. Harmonies that invite the listener to just sink into them. One of those albums that, once listened to, gives the sense of having travelled very far distances from your seat by the stereo." - Dave Sumner, Emusic 'A baritone saxophonist of convincing authority, Brian Landrus has a new album, "Mirage" (BlueLand), that features his compositions for a mixed cohort of jazz quintet and strings.' - Nate Chinen, New York Times "There are still players out there blowing the big horn with all the swing and passion of their forbears. One of those cats is Brian Landrus.... Resplendent with beautiful melodies, a small but smartly used string section and Landrus' own unique appealing approach to the low reeds, this one's both an artistic triumph and real listening pleasure" - S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews BIO: Over the past decade Brian Landrus has emerged as the most powerful new voice on the baritone saxophone with a series of critically hailed albums exploring an array of grooves, from straight-ahead swing to slinky R&B. But none of his previous releases anticipated the ambitious scope and stunning beauty of Mirage, a singular masterpiece integrating his Kaleidoscope quintet with a string quartet led by violin maestro Mark Feldman. Melodically charged and harmonically venturesome, Landrus' music is marked by sumptuous textures, cascading lines and captivating movement. Mirage is slated for release on June 25, 2013 on BlueLand Records. Landrus, who's recently been touring with Esperanza Spalding, credits Bob Brookmeyer with inspiring him to tackle writing for jazz ensemble and strings. After studying at New England Conservatory with the legendary trombonist/arranger, he forged a close friendship with his former mentor. Upon Brookmeyer's death in 2011, Landrus went back and explored some of his orchestral writing, fueling his determination to capture the music that had been slowly coalescing in his mind. "I always wanted to do something with strings," Landrus says. "After Bob passed I listened to a lot of his music, like a session he did with the Metropole Orchestra. I was in a space where a lot of the music I was developing had a common thread. I wanted to play things where the strings are crucial, where my group and the strings are completely interconnected." Landrus describes his old NEC friend Ryan Truesdell as an indispensable collaborator both in the project's conception and the music's realization in the studio. Creative confidantes ever since they bonded while nervously awaiting their NEC auditions, they both thrived under Brookmeyer's thoughtful guidance. As Landrus started planning the Mirage recording sessions he realized that performing the music as a full ensemble, rather than relying on tracking and overdubs, required a savvy conductor to keep the music flowing, particularly since he often switches instruments mid-tune. "I gave Ryan the music the month before and he studied the hell out of it," says Landrus, who's been voted a DownBeat Baritone Sax Rising Star the past three years. "He took over as conductor in the studio and on a lot of the tunes he handled all the cuing. I trusted him to take the energy to the next level. I told him, you'll have to conduct it how you think, how it feels, and he made it happen." The album opens with an anticipation-building drone introducing "Arrival," a soaring, irrepressibly buoyant anthem that sets the template for Landrus' organic integration of the quintet and strings. While not created as a suite, Mirage does feel like a vast canvas painted with the same shimmering watercolor palette. Landrus uses the strings to open "A New Day," which almost feels like a programmatic evocation of a gentle summer dawn, but when Lonnie Plaxico's implacably propulsive bass moves to the foreground the vibe shifts from lulling to wide-eyed expectation. Plaxico anchored Landrus' 2009 straight-ahead session Traverse, and Landrus knew he wanted him in the mix for Mirage. "Lonnie's sound is massive, and his rhythmic subdivision is very wide - he fills everything out." While he occasionally joins the Plaxico at the bottom with rumbling contra alto clarinet lines (particularly on the brief and poignant "Reach"), Landrus spends most of his time on bari, and no player today possesses a more beautiful and pliant tone on the burly horn. Many of Landrus' lines seem to have been conceived with Nir Felder in mind, and the contrast between Landrus' thick and breathy bari and Felder's sleek, quicksilver guitar is one of the album's reoccurring pleasures. On the title track, which fully reveals Landrus' gift for writing bright singing melodies, they both take dancing solos that seem to leap into space. Composing the music "that's what I heard, Nir's incredible sound," Landrus says. "And I love the sound of bass clarinet and bari blending and playing melodies with his guitar. It's a really colorful and unique sound, like it's own instrument." Landrus is equally comfortable getting down and earthly, like on "Jade," a tune with a slinky backbeat redolent of late night revelry. He closes the album with "Kismet," a solo bass saxophone soliloquy that showcases his incredible tone and musicianship. In many ways the band is built from the groove up, starting with drummer extraordinaire Rudy Royston, who's played on both previous Kaleidoscope albums. A highly sought after player whose recent credits include albums with Bill Frisell, J.D. Allen, Ben Allison, Ron Miles, and his sister-in-law Tia Fuller, Royston "is brilliant and incredibly versatile," Landrus says. "He can swing his ass off, and has the ability to feel out any tune and make it sound natural." Like with Truesdell, Landrus' relationship with Frank Carlberg, who was also tight with Brookmeyer, dates back to his years at NEC, though the pianist was his professor rather than a fellow student. Landrus made a point of studying with him, and before long he was playing in Carlberg's big band. "I learned a lot from him, and we've been playing together for years," Landrus says. "He has a freedom to his playing and composing that's a drastic thing. Some of his music contains the most intense builds I've ever heard in my life." The other key figure in the recording was violinist Mark Feldman, who provided essential assistance to Landrus in shaping the string arrangements. "I'd call him up and say is this possible? I'd send him music and ask will this work?" Landrus says. Feldman also recruited string players adept at jazz rhythms, like cellist Jody Hammann, who has toured with Esperanza Spalding for several years. "All of the string players got together as a group and made it happen," Landrus says. "Jody's a phenomenal musician with a gorgeous sound, and she hooked me up with Esperanza," with whom Landrus spent much of the past year on the road. Music this beautiful and fresh might seem like an illusion, but Mirage is the work of an oversized talent who's just getting started.

1.1 Arrival
1.2 Sammy
1.3 Don't Close Your Eyes
1.4 A New Day
1.5 The Thousands
1.6 Someday
1.7 Reach
1.8 Mirage
1.9 I've Been Told
1.10 Three Words
1.11 Jade
1.12 Kismet

The Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope: Mirage

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