The gentle side of Ellington Strayhorn predominates.

Palmetto Records BL202301

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

Agra 2:47 Ellington/Strayhorn / 2. *Chelsea Bridge 2:42 Strayhorn / 3. A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing 5:19 Strayhorn / 4. *Daydream 4:22 Ellington/Strayhorn / 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

Look at the list of tracks: the quality of the compositions is some of the finest in jazz. Ellington enjoyed the saxophone section, which was together from 1955 to 1970. Even though the players had different tones, there was a unique blend which spread across from Johnny Hodges, the woody New Orleans sound from Russell Procope, the tutored bop sound from Jimmy Hamilton and the breathy, convoluted unique sounds from Paul Gonsalves, the baritone of Harry Carney rooted all of them. The spirit of Carney is across the whole album.

It is fascinating to hear the scores played with love and expertise. The album opens with ‘Agra’ from ‘The Far East Suite’ and later ‘Isfahan’. There are two pieces from the Shakespearean Suite ‘The Telecasters’ and ‘Star Crossed Lovers’.

Landrus wrote most of the arrangements. He was intent in bringing out, not just the elegance and sophistication, but also the sensuality and the dark qualities inherent in the textures.

Brian Landrus is a low woodwind artist, specialising in baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, bass clarinet, contra alto clarinet, alto flute and bass flute. Landrus has worked with Fred Hersch, Maria Schneider, Nicholas Payton Esperanza Spalding, Bob Moses, The Gil Evans Orchestra, Darcy James Argue and Ravi Coltrane.

Not every arrangement works. ‘Lush Life’ is complex. Strayhorn wrote the piece when he was a young man, well before he met Ellington. It was the first piece that he played for the Duke. Strangely, it was also a piece that the Ellington band rarely played. The arrangement here is over-elaborate and seems to lose the thread.

Landrus’ playing on ‘Agra is particularly fine. This is Ellington writ large. Landrus has the poise, depth and lightness of Carney and he brings out the nuances of the piece and reminds us about the subtleties of Carney’s playing.

‘Chelsea Bridge’ was the province of Gonsalves or Webster and Landrus captures the impressionist qualities of the piece. Dave Stryker fits well into to the arrangements, particularly into the score of ‘A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing’. Guest arranger Ayn Inserto works on ‘Warm Valley. The evocative and sensual melody is taken up by Landrus with Stryker’s guitar in the background

Some of the music is arranged in a radically different way. ‘Daydream’ is given a Latin rhythm and is a good excuse to involve master drummer, Billy Hart.

Landrus mainly uses the baritone to carry the melodies and uses the other wind instruments to fill out the scores. The gentle side of Ellington Strayhorn predominates. The whole album reminds listeners of the incomparable contribution made by Ellington and Strayhorn.