Tuesday, November 1, 2011

CD Review: “Capsule” The Landrus Kaleidoscope


It’s not often these days that us ‘masters of the lowdown’ get to step out front but Brian Landrus could change all that. The Landrus Kaleidoscope, the electro-acoustic five-piece led by the New England Conservatory of Music grad and guru of low frequency instruments has made a big splash.

Landrus plays baritone sax, bass flute and bass clarinet on Capsule, his latest release for BlueLand Records that hit the street on October 25.

The first thing that becomes clear when you put the album on is that this is not “Soft Jazz” although it is not overly busy and the tunes are very lyrical, there are no compromises musically. Even the make up of the band is daring to an extent, mixing acoustic instruments and electric instrument and even electric guitar effects not usually so overtly present in a jazz setting. Additionally the tunes have more than a nodding acquaintance with soul, R&B  (I kept expecting Marvin Gaye to suddenly burst out of my speakers on “I Promise”) and even some Afro-Caribbean and Reggae  structures that are tantalizing to the ear.

But, it stays firmly grounded in jazz and the jazz atmosphere quickly absorbs these other influences thanks in large part to the rhythm section of, firstly – as always I name the bass player first – acoustic bass in the capable hands of Matthew Parish, he of the big round, soulful sound who brings to Matthew Parishmind Charlie Mingus and Ray Brown.

His fellow rhythm master, Rudy Royston lays down that steady beat that has such deep pockets that the Artful Dodger and Fagin would be left scratching their heads. The Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts and classically trained percussionist is quickly becoming a much sought after first call drummer, no matter the type of music.

Rudy Royston

Then things get eclectic. On acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes piano we have Michael Cain – no, not the actor – the U of North Texas grad and classically trained veteran of sessions with Ravi Coltrane, Jackie DeJohnnette, Me'Shell Ndegéocello, his own critically acclaimed trio and many more jazz giants. Cain is also  the co-producer of the album, and a mainstay in Landrus’ various efforts since he studied with him. He brings that funky spice rack to this effort in a very tasty way.Michael Cain

There’s only two guys left to mention making up Kaleidoscope, and one of them is obviously Landrus’. So who is that guy on guitar? Well, Nir Felder just may be the next big sensation in jazz guitar and that’s no idle threat. Awarded the 2004 Berklee Billboard Endowed Scholarship Award for outstanding musicianship, he has got big ears for harmony and a very fluid, yet edgy solo approach and is an exciting jazz player on the solid body electric. As young as he is you keep expecting him to break out in some shredding imitation of Hendrix yet he plays with a touch and a feel for the composition that’s just really amazing in it’s disciplined approach without sacrificing creativity .Nir Felder

Felder is a superstar in the making and as much restraint as he brings to the album, you can feel the tension. But it is a serious, dedication to the music and it is a beautiful and unexpected sound he brings to tunes like track two, “Like The Wind” which opens with an airy, reggae feel run, high up on the fret board. Then he meshes with Landrus’ bass flute and the trippy Rhodes piano of Cain to make this nearly psychedelic feeling, wah-wah infused piece that would have felt at home in the  summer of love.

“Like The Wind’ fades into “Beauty” a more traditional jazz tune that just pops and simmers thanks to the relentless drumming of Royston who seems to be able to hold a complicated rhythm together into eternity. The man lives inside that beat. Landrus  plays the bass clarinet on this piece and shows off the dirty lowdown beauty of the deep sounds it’s capable of. Brian LandrusThen comes the soulful “I Promise” which may be my favorite track if I was forced to choose one.

“Capsule”, the title track is a Brazilian/Afro-Cuban influenced, tantalizing track that has a heartbeat of it’s own featuring the baritone sax work of Landrus on his main instrument.

Then things get dark and menacing with “71 & On The Road” a growly, gritty tune about golden age touring as a musician. You can smell the sweat and cigarette smoke in your shirt and your throat is dry and it’s 2 a.m. and you still have to pack your kit when you should be collecting social security.But that’s not what you do.The bass work here just makes the tune as it threatens to sneak up on you in the dark. Felder plays some roiling arpeggios that push both the bass and Landrus bari sax. What an evocative tune. I want to make the movie.

The last two songs are really showcases for Landrus’ baritone, “Wide Sky” brings to mind late afternoon sunshine playing with the shadows and the piano solo is just everything; playful, flirty, immaculate. “Now” is a slow ballad that opens with a nice figure on the guitar and piano playing off the line, and Landrus taking over with a tone, low and sweet.

Capsule is an excellent and welcome addition to ‘true’ jazz scene and Landrus is making a case for low register players that will romance your ears give your soul a tune up and make you smile.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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