Brian Landrus

For Now

For Now is a special kind of baritone saxophone album. True, it would be difficult for Brian Landrus not to attain that distinction with the dream rhythm section of pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Billy Hart. But what sets the recording apart is the leader’s exquisite and seamless interaction with a string quartet—and the compelling role the strings play. For Now is largely a collection of love songs, most of them by Landrus. Some are radiant, others bittersweet, all of them shimmering with nuance. The strings are sometimes distant, even faint, as if speaking from the past or out of a dream. But on tunes like “Invitation,” dreamy gives way to swinging, as the band circles the themes with a kind of centrifugal power. On his solo bass clarinet reading of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight,” Landrus maximizes his space with animated trills, tonal effects and a dab of klezmer. For “The Signs”—a medium-swing, classic-sounding original—the unison lines by Landrus and trumpeter Michael Rodriguez sit elegantly in the pocket. For Now concludes with a transfixing duo reading of “Ruby, My Dear” by Landrus and Hersch—a Monk specialist who, according to a press release, had never publicly played this classic. He picked an excellent place, and an excellent artist, to start with.