Low-register reed specialist and multi-instrumentalist and composer Brian Landrus confronted a difficult period in his life and used adversity to inspire a passionate declaration in song on his 2020 release For Now (BlueLand Records). He took advice from the late valve-trombonist, composer and educator Bob Brookmeyer, “book a recording session before you have the music composed—then you have a goal.”
Alternating between the baritone saxophone and the bass clarinet, Landrus creates wonderful lower-range tones and compositions with instruments often over-shadowed by the tenor or soprano saxophone. On For Now, offering ten original compositions and three jazz standards, Landrus creates time for slower romantic dreamscapes and elegant love ballads that develop at a beautiful pace, lingering with the melody. Complimented by “a perfect team” of collaborators, his quartet also included the renowned pianist, composer and NEC educator, Fred Hersch. Contributing additional instrumental chemistry and superb rhythm is Drew Gress (bass) and Billy Hart (drums).
Also adding a richness to the harmonies was the addition of an elegant string quartet: Sara Caswell (violin), Joyce Hammann (violin), Lois Martin (viola) and Jody Redhage-Ferber (cello), with arrangements by Landrus and opera composer Robert Aldridge.
The deep feeling found on the re-make of Thelonious Monk‘s “Ruby, My Dear” and the original composition “The Second Time” are examples of where Landrus used the richness of the lower register tone of the baritone saxophone, and with particular emphasis, the bass clarinet, “to process and get to the melody.”
Landrus credits Hersch as his co-collaborator, muse and genius, creating “incredible atmosphere as he gets inside the song.” In addition, the superb percussionist, drummer and close friend Billy Hart brought exemplary chops and, as importantly, the instinct to explore on every take in the studio, driving other band members to take chances.
During the inspiration and evolution of For Now Landrus found himself reflecting back on his key mentor and teacher at the New England Conservatory, Bob Brookmeyer, and the experience at NEC “that completely changed my life.” Fighting a tumultuous time personally Landrus “put pencil to paper” as his mentor had recommended. The results of that focus are individual emotions in melody, composition and arrangement that range in beauty and elegance while making a personal statement.