Brian Landrus – Plays Ellington & Strayhorn (ENG review)

Palmetto Records – Street Date July 12th 2024
Brian Landrus - Plays Ellington & Strayhorn

An album that highlights the baritone saxophone and features Duke Ellington’s music was more than enough to pique my curiosity. The result lived up to my expectations. Ellington’s work remains decidedly modern, especially in the hands of this brilliant saxophonist and composer, who has strived to offer us sumptuous arrangements. These arrangements not only transport us back to the era of their creation through their rhythm but also play between the lines with the codes. Over the years, many artists have made use of his talent: Fred Hersch, Robert Livingston Aldridge, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Esperanza Spalding, Bob Moses, the Gil Evans Orchestra, The Temptations, The Drifters, Michael Cain, The Four Tops, Ravi Coltrane, Danilo Perez, Ben Monder, Matthew Parish, Martha Reeves, Chubby Checker, Bob Berg, Joey DeFrancesco, Leo Genovese, Frank London, Gatemouth Brown, Jason Palmer, and many others. This tells us in advance that this album would not be a pale copy of Ellington’s music as originally played. Here, Brian Landrus pours all his passion for Ellington into his work, and it sounds beautiful, offering a perspective often more poetic than the original writing.

Landrus’ 2020 release, *For Now*, was published on BlueLand Records on May 15, 2020. This indicates how much of a pure marvel this album is, and we are not alone in recognizing Landrus’ significance. “A baritone saxophonist of convincing authority” – The New York Times. After ten albums as a leader, multi-instrumentalist and composer Dr. Brian Landrus has become an internationally renowned artist specializing in low woodwinds. Landrus specializes in the family of low woodwinds, particularly the baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, bass clarinet, contra-alto clarinet, alto flute, and bass flute. As a composer, Landrus has written for solo instruments up to the symphony orchestra.

Duke Ellington stated that when he composed for his orchestra, he wrote for the individual musicians, not their instruments. For his new album celebrating the timeless music of Ellington and his composing partner Billy Strayhorn, Brian Landrus essentially reversed this concept. To find his personal interpretation of Ellington and Strayhorn’s works, Landrus created a virtual orchestra composed of the musician he knows best – himself.

“There is an elegance and sophistication in Ellington and Strayhorn’s music,” says Landrus. “But it’s intertwined with that darker quality that Mingus always recognized – those harmonic tensions and beautiful textures. I absolutely wanted to add my own colors to these compositions, but I wasn’t looking to reinvent each piece. I felt that the unusual timbres of the woodwinds would give them a unique atmosphere that had never been heard before on these pieces. I let these sound qualities guide me in the direction that I thought would be the most respectful to Strayhorn and Duke.”

All this is more than enough to add this to our “Essentials” pile. On your end, you will have to be a little patient to enjoy it.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, June 17th 2024

Follow PARIS-MOVE on X


To buy this album




  1. Agra 2:47 Ellington/Strayhorn
  2. *Chelsea Bridge 2:42 Strayhorn – May 10th Single
  3. A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing 5:19 Strayhorn
  4. *Daydream 4:22 Ellington/Strayhorn – June 14th Single
  5. Praise God 3:29 Ellington
  6. Prelude To A Kiss 4:01 Ellington
  7. Come Sunday 2:29 Ellington/Strayhorn
  8. The Telecasters 2:05 Ellington/Strayhorn
  9. Lotus Blossom 2:34 Strayhorn
  10. Lush Life 5:44 Strayhorn
  11. Isfahan 3:41 Ellington/Strayhorn
  12. Star-Crossed Lovers 4:07 Ellington/Strayhorn
  13. *Warm Valley 6:55 Ellington
  14. *Sophisticated Lady 2:04 Ellington


Brian Landrus – saxes, clarinets and flutes
Dave Stryker – guitar
Jay Anderson – bass
Billy Hart – drums


Guest arrangers Gregory Hopkins & Ayn Inserto.
Produced by John Kilgore and Brian Landrus
Recorded at Bunker Studio by John Kilgore
Mixed by John Kilgore in August 2023.
Mastered by Alan Silverman
Cover Art by Keith Henry Brow