Brian Landrus is a composer of some merit – all but three of the 13 compositions on this set are by him – but he is also, unusually, a specialist on the lower woodwinds, performing here on baritone sax, bass clarinet and two mid-range flutes. These lower voices are particularly suited to the songs on this set, which all explore heartbreak, longing and romance, making for a quiet, often intimate experience.
To perform with him, Landrus has assembled a stellar trio, including notably Fred Hersch on piano, plus a sparsely used trumpet and string quartet. The Miss, a waltz, benefits from Hersch’s romantic solo and refined string arrangements, while JJ is a feature for the leader’s bass clarinet. The moving, albeit short, title track is an unaffected love ballad of the type you are sure you have heard before, as is For Whom I Imagined, while Her Smile works well as an initial trumpet lead for Michael Rodriguez with strong section work behind him.
Two of the three non-originals are by Monk, both of which are considerably reworked: ’Round Midnight is taken solo on bass clarinet in an abrupt, almost abrasive style, while the concluding Ruby, My Dear – Hersch always ends his sets with a Monk standard, although surprisingly he had never publicly played this Monk piece before – is a piano duet with the leader on evocative baritone sax in which Hersch takes some great liberties with the theme.
With such fine musicians to hand, it is to be expected that the performances are uniformly strong, but while I enjoy Landrus’s contributions for their intriguing sonorities, I do find his tendency to run ahead of himself slightly irritating, although Billy Hart is always ready to steady the time. But I quibble, for this is an interesting, rewarding set that deserves frequent replays.
Find out more about Brian Landrus: For Now at brianlandrus.com.
The Signs; Clarity In Time; The Miss; JJ; For Now; ’Round Midnight; Invitation; For Whom I Imagined; The Night Of Change; The Second Time; Her Smile; The Wait; Ruby, My Dear (60.54)
Landrus (bar, bcl, af, cf); Fred Hersch (p); Drew Gress (b); Billy Hart (d); plus Michael Rodriguez (t); Sara Caswell, Joyce Hammann (vn); Lois Martin (vla); Jody Redhage-Ferber (clo). New York City, 7–8, 28 August 2019.
Blue Land Records BLR-2020