Although the previous small-group recordings by the multi-instrumentalist and composer Brian Landrus all bore a marked sophistication, there was nary a hint that he desired to expand into something as ambitious and formidable as what now comprises this orchestral production. As on his earlier releases, Landrus showcases his considerable technique and breadth on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, but Generations, unlike his trio and quartet recordings, is panoramic and sumptuous, a sweeping, meticulously crafted work that suggests Landrus has much more to offer. Not a big-band production in the established sense, Generations has more in common with large-ensemble statements by the likes of Gil Evans and Maria Schneider. But he’s got his own voice, and utilizing the talent of players like vibraphonist Joe Locke, harpist Brandee Younger, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummers Billy Hart and Justin Brown—as well as a full complement of horns and strings—allows Landrus to realize his conception flawlessly.
The centerpiece is undeniably the 20-plus-minute, four-movement “Jeru Concerto,” which launches the recording. A tribute to Gerry Mulligan, the suite navigates a multitude of temperaments and dynamic shifts, diving deep into Landrus’ trademark lowness (both as orchestra member and solo) before emerging bright, funky and effervescent. With so much music at his disposal, Landrus makes the most of his rhythmic and sonic options too: “Human Nature” (not the Michael Jackson tune) lopes and gallops and is given an airiness by Jamie Baum’s flute, while “The Warrior” is appropriately imbued with bravado as well as moments of reflective solace. Generations is towering, often imposing, but never bombastic. And like any well-executed orchestral work, its layers reveal more with each listen.