Brian Landrus Orchestra — Generations
(BlueLand Records, 2017, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2017-10-20
In my book, adding orchestral parts to jazz and rock is a risky business. Not only do you have the needs that all genres have of writing interesting music, but the added necessity to make the orchestra parts interesting as well often presents difficulties that many artists are unable to overcome. For every successful attempt, there are dozens of failures. Brian Landrus is a baritone saxophonist, and Generations presents just short of an hour of modern jazz backed by a 25-member ensemble that includes strings, a full complement of woodwinds, brass, harp, vibraphone, and drums. He handles the arrangements admirably, fully utilizing the tones and colors available, and devises parts for the instruments that don’t just fill in backgrounds for his soloing or cover the chording that a pianist would do in a smaller group. At times I’m reminded of the great jazz soundtracks that Quincy Jones has done, which blend 20th Century techniques with inventive jazz playing. The album starts out with the five parts of the “Jeru Concerto” (four movements plus an interlude). This work features Landrus on the bari, but there are plenty of great passages of ensemble work for the others — after all, a concerto is really all about the soloist. Aside from the concerto, there are seven individual pieces. These other pieces are a bit more balanced in that they don’t focus so much on Landrus himself, so you’ll hear the occasional trumpet or bass clarinet solo, though most of the spotlights for flute, vibes, and the others are composed. There’s some pretty dense polyphony at times, where various groups of instruments compete for attention, but it all fits together quite nicely. In all, Generations is a nice piece of work with a distinctive sound and a pleasingly fresh example of large ensemble arrangement. I suppose it wouldn’t be practical for Landrus to maintain a group like this for a tour, but this studio creation is a fine addition to the canon.
Related artist(s): Brian Landrus
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