By Ed Enright | Published June 2022
Brian Landrus has made a string of potent statements as a leader on such albums as 2009’s Forward, 2013’s chamber-like Mirage, 2015’s adventurous trio outing The Deep Below, 2017’s orchestral project Generations and 2020’s quartet recording For Now. With his latest release, the prodigious baritone saxophonist and bass clarinetist is sounding the alarm for animals whose populations in the wild have been so severely diminished that we now risk losing them completely. That’s the impetus behind Red List: Music Dedicated To The Preservation Of Our Endangered Species, which finds Landrus collaborating with an all-star ensemble and creating compelling original music that serves a higher purpose. Consisting of 15 tracks — 13 of them dedicated to birds, mammals and reptiles that currently appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of species on the verge of extinction — the recording features a committed-to-the-cause core band of Landrus, trombonist Ryan Keberle, guitarist Nir Felder, keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, percussionist John Hadfield and drummer Rudy Royston. Supplementing the group on various tracks are alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, tenor saxophonist Ron Blake, trumpeter/flugelhornist Steve Roach and vocalist Corey King, whose voices color and fatten the unconventional ensemble blends that distinguish each of Landrus’ animal-specific arrangements. On top of a sense of urgency that persists throughout Red List, the program traverses many moods and styles — from the mellow winds and delicate percussion of “Nocturnal Flight” to the syncopated dub groove of “Save The Elephants” to the hard-rocking “Canopy Of Trees,” interspresed with a sprinkling of brief, fleet-fingered solo improvisations. The leader’s sparse band arrangements leave plenty of room for his highly nuanced low-woodwind lines, and the instrumental timbres of the team players, to emerge in their full glory. This is another strong release from a major force on the modern jazz scene who will start work as a professor of jazz composition at Berklee this fall. Landrus plans to donate a portion of the proceeds and 100% of the profits from Red List to Save The Elephants, an organization that has been helping to ensure a future for African Elephants for nearly 30 years.