Brian Landrus Plays Ellington & Strayhorn – Palmetto Records

by | Jun 24, 2024 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

A unique tour de force take on Ellington and Strayhorn, from Brian Landrus…

Brian Landrus Plays Ellington & Strayhorn – Palmetto Records # BL 202301 CD- 55:22 – ****1/2

(Brian Landrus – baritone sax, bass sax, bass clarinet, contra alto clarinet; piccolo, c flute, alto flute, bass flute – Dave Stryker – acoustic and electric guitar – Jay Anderson – acoustic bass; Billy Hart – drums)

There probably isn’t a saxophone, clarinet, flute, or other wind instrument that Brian Landrus hasn’t played. Primarily known for his mastery of the low woodwinds, especially the baritone sax, Landrus is a noted professor at the Berklee College of Music. With over ten albums as a leader, and scores more as a sideman, Brian is a musician always ready for a challenge.

His latest sounds pedestrian, but with his multi-instrument skills, he has taken on the task of playing Ellington and Strayhorn with a unique blend of low register implements- baritone and bass saxes, and bass clarinet; coupled with contra alto clarinet, piccolo, and three kinds of flutes.

Landrus is backed by veterans Dave Stryker on guitars, Jay Anderson on acoustic bass, and ace drummer, Billy Hart. Most every track has Brian on multiple instruments. Remarkably, the mix is flawless, with the average ear convinced that there are many more players involved. But it’s Dr. Landrus working his magic.

The song list is mostly Ellington and/or Strayhorn long time classics, but there are some lesser known songs included from the two jazz masters. The vibe present on these largely familiar compositions is lyrical and haunting, with a mystical and exotic feel. The unusual timbres give new readings that are unique .

“Agra” from The Far East Suite has Billy Hart using mallets, and with Landrus on bari sax providing another bottom end, you can almost feel the caravan moving along through the sand. Brian’s flutes give “Chelsea Bridge” a warm richness. “Daydream” is given a bossa nova kick from Dave Stryker’s guitar, and a more “gentle” baritone sax tone by Brian. “Praise God” is anchored by multiple Landrus woodwinds backed by the bowed bass of Jay Anderson. How the winds were mixed is a marvel. The lighter winds float on “Come Sunday,” while Stryker’s guitar shines on “Prelude to a Kiss.”

“Lotus Blossom” is a duet with Brian and Dave. “Lush Life” (Billy Strayhorn’s most well known song) is as gentle as a warm Spring breeze. “Isfahan” has a hint of mystery as the higher winds float over the guitar.

“Warm Valley,” arranged by Ayn Inserto, is a highlight, with the soft baritone sax over the gentle ballad theme, with the light winds cascading in.

The closing track, “Sophisticated Lady,” is a fun way to conclude. Landrus does battle with the unwieldy bass sax moaning (belching?) the well known theme. It’s certainly a unique version.

There is so much to love here. With his mastery of so many instruments, Brian Landrus keeps us on our toes, with his vision of arguably two of America’s greatest jazz composers.

—Jeff Krow

Brian Landrus Plays Ellington & Strayhorn


Agra, Chelsea Bridge, A Flower is a Lovesome Thing, Daydream, Praise God, Prelude to a Kiss, Come Sunday, The Telecasters, Lotus Blossom, Lush Life, Isfahan, Star-Crossed Lovers, Warm Valley, Sophisticated Lady

More information through Brian Landrus

Album Cover for Brian Landrus Plays Ellington and Strathorn


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