Brian Landrus/The Landrus Kaleidoscope – Capsule (2011)

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Brian Landrus is one of the fast rising artists on the NYC jazz scene; so much so that it was only in 2009 his debut album Forward came out and now in 2011, we are here talking about his third release of 2011, Capsule.

This master of the low instruments like the baritone sax, bass clarinet and bass flute, has a unique, natural sound for these instruments that never sound labored or forced. That’s one of his unique attributes that made prior records like the debut Forward and Traverse from earlier this year so appealing. This time, Landrus veers off from strictly acoustic jazz into the so-called “electro-acoustic” realm of fusion jazz. Credited to “The Landrus Kaleidoscope,” Landrus carries over his trusted sidekick on keys, Michael Cain, and adds Nir Felder on guitar, Matthew Parish on acoustic bass and Rudy Royston on drums.

This record is a significant step in Landrus fast-expanding solo career. We’ve heard a lot of electro-acoustic stuff lately, and a lot of it successfully marries the groove of funk, soul and jam band rock to the spacious, extemporaneous vibe of jazz. Capsule does that, too. But how many such records feature the bari or the bass clarinet? It’s not something I’ve ever wondered about, but Landrus provides the answer anyway. And, at least when he’s doing it, it sounds great.

Something else new that Landrus shows here is his ability to adapt his compositional style to fit the music. On prior records, we’ve encountered intricate, swinging melodies derivative of the bop idiom. For his Kaleidoscope band, Landrus devises open-ended vamps and fewer chords, building songs more around rhythms. If the idea is to maintain good grooves and allows the players to stretch out and jam, then it’s an idea that got across acutely to my ears.

Within this corner of fusion, Landrus found a lot of different paths to follow down. “Capsule” borrows ideas from Brazil, “Like The Wind” uses a reggae rhythm while the smooth soul serenades of “I Promise” and the closer “Now” provide the right balance to the tougher sounds found elsewhere on the disc. Even on the all-acoustic number “Wide Sky,” there a lithe, contemporary structure and feel to it that fits in nicely with the rest of the record.

The outfit Landrus has assembled integrates well, with Felder providing some pretty leads on “Striped Phase” and “Like The Wind”. But because oftentimes the song’s signature feature is the groove, that makes Royston a key player; he can be explosive, detailed and complex. He does the heavy lifting underneath, syncing up well with Parish, so that Landrus and Felder can relax and never feel the need to overplay.

That laid back sensibility but with concise musicianship are the essential ingredients that make The Landrus Kaleidoscope’s Capsule another strong effort by Brian Landrus. No longer the new kid on the block, Landrus shows he has the goods to take his muse down whatever path he chooses and produce a winner every time.

Capsule goes on sale today, the second release by Landrus’ own BlueLand label. Visit Brian Landrus’ website.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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