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Brian Landrus – What’s on Your Playlist?

Jazzed Magazine • September 2015What's on Your Playlist? • September 1, 2015

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Brian_Landrus_2_photo_by_Vince SegallaBrian Landrus is one of the most unique and powerful voices on low reeds and a composer of striking abilities. With The Deep Below, his sixth album as a leader and the debut recording of his trio with bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Billy Hart, Landrus showcases his prowess on baritone and bass saxophones, bass clarinet, and bass flute. The New York Times calls Landrus, “a baritone saxophonist of convincing authority.”

In addition to leading his own groups, Landrus has toured internationally with Esperanza Spalding and performed widely with the likes of John Lockwood, Lewis Nash, Frank Kimbrough, Donny McCaslin, Steve Wilson, Jay Anderson, Scott Robinson, Ryan Truesdell’s Gil Evans Project, Dave Pietro, Herb Robertson, Greg Gisbert, Steve Swell, the Ayn Inserto Orchestra, Frank Carlberg, and Alan Ferber, among others. Landrus began playing saxophone at 12 and was performing professionally by 15. He earned his bachelor’s degree in saxophone performance at the University of Nevada-Reno and two master’s degrees at New England Conservatory, one in jazz composition and the other in jazz saxophone. A longtime educator, he is on the faculty of Rutgers University where he is working on a PhD in classical composition and finishing a concerto for baritone sax and another for bass clarinet. Landrus also teaches at the 92Y School of Music in New York City and The Lagond Music School in Westchester, New York.

1. Igor StravinskyStravinsky Conducts Stravinsky

It’s difficult for me to choose a specific recording or work of Stravinsky’s which I can say is the most dear to my heart. I have listened to so many hours of Stravinsky it’s impossible to keep track, and I continue to find new performances and pieces which surprise me. I love the color and variety expressed in his music from all periods. I began studying his scores in depth when I was preparing to write my baritone and bass clarinet concertos. His pieces “Orpheus,” “Symphony In Three Movements,” and “Rite of Spring” are some of my favorites.

2. Maurice Ravel – “Bolero” NY Philharmonic conducted by Bernstein

I’ve always loved Ravel, and his orchestral works are remarkable. “Rapsodie Espagole” is a favorite which I studied trying to isolate the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic structures which lead to the success of the work. Again like Stravinsky, I love the colors he creates. This Bernstein performance is gorgeous and notable for the flow.

3. Los Munequitos de MatanzasRumba Caliente

While at the New England Conservatory I was fortunate to study with Danilo Perez. With Danilo I was working on my rhythmic groove. Danilo had me tapping various clave patterns with my foot and playing bebop heads. It was, and is, very difficult, but it took my internal groove to the next level. He told me about Los Munequintos so I listened to all of their recordings available and transcribed as many of the clave patterns I could find. They’re a great source of compositional inspiration for me.

4. Steve ReichDifferent Trains, Electric Counterpoint

This one blew me away the first time I heard it, and when I read the liner notes and got tears in my eyes. It’s a beautiful journey with a very unique trajectory. The stellar recording transitions into “Electric Counterpoint” with Pat Metheny, which is another journey in itself. The metamorphosis in the looping compositions make me question the parameters I’ve been comfortable with. Vocal intonation as a material source has been important to me. Mr. Reich’s vision is wide.

5. Donny HathawayDonny Hathaway

My dear friend and incredible vocalist Chris Turner told me about Donny while we were on the road together a few years back. We were talking about soul artists and I didn’t know Hathaway’s music. We all played the DJ in the back of the bus and would show each other music we loved. Chris played some Donny, Bobby Caldwell, and other cats I knew and loved. This record is beautiful for the songs, heart, and orchestration.  

6. Thomas MapfumoSpirits To Bite Our Ears: The Singles Collection 1977-1986

While at NEC I met my buddy Michael Cain. I was in his ensemble and he became a good friend. His ears are incredible and he helped me grow so much as a musician and producer. In mixing he’d hear things at a specific hertz which astonished me and contributed to the beauty of the first two records on BlueLand Records. I was talking with Mike about James Brown and he asked if I’d heard Mapfumo. This was the first record he suggested and one of my favorites. The intertwining two and three feel natural to the players, it’s only after trying to find out what’s really going on that we discover the depth of groove.

7. James BrownStar Time Box Set

Hearing the growth and artistic transformation of JB is amazing – from the early Coasters influence into the full on funk groove. The heart is present at all times and you feel the power and dedication of the whole band. It feels so good and natural without knowing its changing the pocket forever. Deepest level of groove.

8. Gerry MulliganConcert Jazz Band Complete Mosaic Set 

I found this one before I started taking lessons with Bob Brookmeyer. I love Gerry and was finding all the recordings he did. Bob had arranged a lot of the music while being Gerry’s musical director, and these tunes are gorgeous. As a player, it’s also inspiring to hear the different takes which go in different directions, regardless of which one ends in the cleanest way. I love hearing outtakes – it’s a great way to learn.  

9. Harry CarneyHarry Carney with Strings

This recording came to me when Josh Jackson recommended it to me at a soul jazz festival I put on in NYC at the 92Y. My previous record had a string quartet with my electric quintet and before the show we were talking about other groups with strings in the jazz world. This record was part of a Ben Webster session which featured Harry on the second disc. Harry has the most beautiful and lush tone ever on the baritone. It’s great to hear Harry front and center.

10. Lester YoungThe Lester Young Story Box Set

This is a great box set which I’ve loved for many years. Lester is one of my biggest influences and I’ve spent many hours transcribing his solos. When I got serious about bass clarinet I set the goal to transcribe all of his solos in this collection to gain agility and language… I got about halfway there. I recommend this collection to everyone – Lester Young is the king of lyricism.  

Brian Landrus’ most recent album, The Deep Below (Palmetto), was released on June 16, 2015.

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