Next up in the JazzBariSax.com 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?
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.
And of course be sure to check out the rest of the interviews from the JazzBariSax.com interview series.