Slinky Late-Night Grooves from Brian Landrus

by delarue

Along with Gato Loco‘s Stefan Zeniuk, Brian Landrus is one of the most wide-ranging low-register reedmen in any style of music. Landrus’ eclectic background informs the tracks on his latest album Mirage: he got his start as a pro playing Motown and soul music, has an ear for reggae and most lately has made jazz composition his thing. The new album is hard to pigeonhole, always a good sign: call it chamber jazz, maybe? Art-soul? The cuts here often remind of Roy Ayers’ mid-70s soundtracks, or Ramsey Lewis at his peak. Or, if Guru from Gang Starr was still alive, Landrus’ grooves here would fit perfectly on one of the Jazzmatazz albums. Landrus’ playing is elegant and laid-back, backed by an adventurous jazz lineup of Nir Felder on guitar, Frank Carlberg on piano and electric keys, Lonnie Plaxico on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. The tracks get an extra pillowy lushness from the strings of violinists Mark Feldman and Joyce Hammann and cellist Jody Redhage, enhanced by Landrus’ contributions on baritone sax, bass flute, bass clarinet, bass sax and the wonderful conta-alto clarinet, second only to the bass sax in terms of low notes.

The first one works a hypnotic bossa vamp, the second a funky groove that’s more tricky rhythmically, the third a late-night boudoir reggae pulse. After that there’s a rapt, nocturnal miniature for strings titled A New Day, then a plush, Brazilian-tinged theme carried by the strings that reminds of the Crusaders with the London Philharmonic album but more tasteful. They go back to a dreamy, waltzing soul theme with bubbly guitar, then Landrus takes a cool solo on the contra-alto clarinet as if to say, this can go anywhere!

It’s amazing how slinky and low-key Royston keeps the dreamy soul-jazz theme Mirage. I’ve Been Told alludes to Marley’s Jamming and builds to the point where it reminds of those Peter Tosh instro albums from the mid 70s – or Byron Lee & the Dragonaires at their most Jamaicanly anthemic. Three Words is a straight-up backbeat soul-jazz version of Mirage with more of a sense of disquiet and another gorgeous Rainy Night in Georgia Felder solo.

Jade is a hypnotic late-night cinematic wind-down theme with a Jean-Luc Ponty-esque violin solo. The album winds up wth a thoughtful solo baritone sax outro from Landrus. Fans of Jesse Fischer’s groove band Soul Cycle will like this.