Category: Interview Interview Series: Brian Landrus

landrusNext up in the interview series is a very hard working next generation baritone saxophonist. Aside from having released several albums as a leader, Brian Landrus tours the world as part of Esperanza Spalding’s latest band. He took a few minutes to give us some insight into his world. Check it out!



Why the baritone?
The first time I played a baritone was when I was sixteen. It was an old silver conn keyed up to Eb. I turned to my friends and said “I think I’m supposed to be a baritone player”. They all laughed and asked me to stop playing cause it sounded awful 🙂
I bought the axe and played it for years until I was 20 and got a nightly casino show gig where I needed a low A. I then bought a SX 90 Keilwerth with a bank loan.

The same year I was playing tenor with all the Motown bands that’d come through town and when they found out I owned a bari they had me play that instead because they all said its easy to find good tenor players but strong bari players are rare.

When I went to NEC for grad school Bob Brookmeyer encouraged me to focus on Bari and bass clarinet because he said he heard something new with me. That’s been endlessly inspirational.

Baritone has always felt the most natural even when I wasn’t able to maneuver like I heard. I fought it for awhile and then gave in to what I always knew. It’s my voice, and by far my favorite horn.

Favorite recordings of and/or with baritone saxophone?
Hamiet Bluiett-Birthright

Gerry Mulligan’s complete concert jazz band-Complete Verve

Pepper Adams-10 to 4 at the 5 spot

Serge Challoff-Blue Serge

Leo Parker-Let Me Tell You Bout It

George Benson’s Cookbook

Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite

Henk Van Twillert-Bach Cello Suites

What’s your equipment/set up?
I play on a low Bb Selmer Super Action from 1948. Its such a free blowing horn. I have a low Bb VI from 1954 that I also love. The old Conns from 1930-1945 are also amazing and I had one for years.

I play on mouthpieces made by Fred Lebayle. My main piece is a Rubber AT 10. His new metal LR III is also incredible.

Rico Jazz Select filed 4M reeds

Ishimori silver wood stone ligatures

Low A, Low Bb, or “My favorite horn is the one in front of me” ?
Low Bb. The Bb has a free blowing, and more of a large tenor feel to me. It sings more. The low A is a much different horn. It sounds lower and heavier to me, and has more resistance. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just my taste. I have owned many Low A horns and still have one for the absolutely mandatory gigs. I’ve learned to not ask the bandleader and they rarely notice.

Anything specific to the baritone you recommend practicing?
Long tones throughout the entire range and focusing on the bottom of your axe as home base. Long tones originating from the fundamental tone (low Bb or low A) makes a solid foundation to jump off from. Use a tuner and listen for the tone to open up with beauty. This will build your flexibility and awareness.

Tips for young baritone saxophonists?
Listen to all the greats. This website has amazing resources to find all the cats that’ve laid the foundation for all of us. Learn the history and carve your own voice from what you learn. Jerry Bergonzi told me something that always sticks out. “We are who we are from three things: who we listen too, what we practice, and who we play with.” That seems poignant to me more than ever.

Favorite venue/place to play?
I’d have to say that out of everywhere I’ve been I really love Paris and Barcelona. London’s Royal Festival Hall might be my favorite venue I’ve ever played. Truly gorgeous hall.

When travelling, does the horn go under or in the plane?
When I fly internationally I put my horn in a Crohnkite gig bag and put that inside an Anvil (Calzone) case and check it. Sometimes the horn needs adjustments on the road because of this. I had it worked on twice on my last three week Europe tour. It’s the only super safe way to go. I have a magnificent Manning fiberglass case that I use for all my US flying. The main issue for me is that I always have at least two horns (usually three) with me. Bari, bass clarinet, and alto flute is most common. The Manning fits in the overhead of almost all planes but in Europe and Asia some planes have tiny compartments-regardless of the size of the plane. Gate checking is never a sure thing because they’ll sometimes put it in the regular cargo hold and you pick it up from the belt anyways.

Favorite quotes about music?
“Practice makes perfect”

“If you work as hard as you possibly can, it’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to.”

What do you do when not playing music?
I love exercise and go nuts if I haven’t worked out. I love pushing myself to run farther and lift more. That helps me stay sane on the road.

What are you currently working on?
I recently recorded the third album for my record label BlueLand Records. It’s titled “Mirage” and will be released June 25, 2013. It’s my Kaleidoscope quintet plus string quartet. I’m currently touring with Esperanza Spalding and planing a new trio record for this summer.


Find out more about Brian at his profile here, and on his website!

And of course be sure to check out the rest of the interviews from the interview series. Interview Series: Claire Daly

dalyWelcome to the interview series, where we get to know some of the practitioners of the big horn. Up this week is Claire Daly. If you don’t already know of Claire Daly, you probably should:

“Claire Daly’s first CD as a leader, “Swing Low” (1999) is in the William Jefferson Clinton Library as a CD significant to him while in office.  She has won Downbeat Magazine “Rising Star” 8 times in 10 years.  Her most recent CD, “Baritone Monk” hit number one on the CMJ Jazz Charts, and rose to number nine on the Jazz Week Charts. It is sponsored by the North Coast Brewery, makers of Brother Thelonious Ale and all proceeds from the CD go to the Monk Institute for jazz education.  She was the Jazz Journalist Association’s Baritonist of the Year in 2005.”



Why the baritone?  Why not?  I mean, if you don’t mind hanging 20-some pounds of metal around your neck and blowing air into it for many hours of your life, why WOULDN’T you play baritone?  It makes a lot of sense to me.

How did you find your way to baritone?  I worked my way down. Started on alto as a kid. Found the bari in my 20s. Never looked back.

Low A or Low Bb?  I play low A Selmers. I had a low Bb Selmer, but it wasn’t a great horn. I think I could adjust to whatever I had to – I’ve just always had Selmers.  I am not a big equipment geek. Find something that plays and play it. My setup is a Low A Mark VI and a Jody Jazz DVNY 7* mouthpiece. I love it.  Before I got it I used a custom Phil Barone for 10 years. It was also a great piece. I have used Bari plastic reeds predominantly for over 20 years.

Anything specific to the baritone you recommend practicing?  I’m a big fan of the longtones. They do so much for your personal sound, as well as opening up the horn, your breathing, your connection to the instrument, etc.  I tell students: “If you do 15 minutes of longtones a day, your life will change”.  I believe there is a meditative quality to doing them. Also, you can know everything there is to know about music, but if your sound sucks, nobody will want to hear you.

Tips for young baritone saxophonists?  Best advice I ever got was “Just keep playing”. It’s worked so far. [George] Garzone says “Just keep the horn in your mouth”. I’m with him.

Favorite venue/place to play? Could be anywhere a good, musical gig happens. Sometimes the fancier situations have other pressures attached. I’ve had some great gigs in unlikely little spots. It’s the music more than the venue, and a great gig can happen anywhere.

Favorite recordings?  I hate this question because it changes regularly. I love most of the bari players, and I love many styles of jazz music (and more). Just start googling. You will be led.

Baritones and airplanes?  Bad combination, but so far, I’ve only had to buy my horn a ticket once. Twice, really, but I talked ‘em into refunding one of them. I take it on the plane with me. Andrew Hadro and I threw a party for bari players and every conversation in the house ended up on this topic.  It’s our cross in life to bear.

Favorite quotes about music?  “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”

When not playing music?  I wish I had some other cool hobby at this point. I’m looking for one. Anybody? It feels to me like I’m always either playing, listening to, teaching or doing something music related. I’d like to even just be able to take a vacation.  The other night I was walking home from teaching and jumped into a comedy club and saw Bobcat Goldwaithe (or whatever his name is). He was actually pretty funny. I’d like to be a comedienne, but I think it’d be like another music career. Lots of “uphill”.

Bonus Question: “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero.  What does he say and why is he here?”  I think the penguin would say “Quick! Run out of here before someone tries to give you a day job!”


Find out more about Claire and her latest CD, “Baritone Monk” on her website! Also be sure to check out her profile here on the site, and some of her upcoming gigs on the Gigs listing page.