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Reno Jazz in the world – Brian Landrus

By ThisIsReno
Published: Last Updated on

Submitted by Chuck Reider

I was reviewing old videos of the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) for a future documentary about us when I ran across a 2002 concert featuring the great composer/arranger Pat Williams. Playing baritone sax was Brian Landrus, who at the time was a UNR student.  I thought it would be fun to catch up with him on the phone and here is what I learned.

Brian Landrus was introduced to jazz at Billinghurst Middle School, graduated from UNR in 2002, and while at UNR performed with the RJO.  He applied to the New England Conservatory of Music because he wanted to study with legendary jazz composer Bob Brookmeyer. He was accepted and started studies the fall of 2004. 

Three years and two masters’ degrees later he felt it was time to move to New York City, though he did not know many NYC jazz musicians. He came with a newly recorded album and experience performing with the Maria Schneider jazz orchestra.

Practicing six hours a day, six days a week, he became a rare, in these days, multi-instrumentalist master. Branching out from his baritone saxophone you can hear him on a variety of clarinets, flutes, and saxophones including the bass saxophone.

During this time, he went to every jam session he could. There, he grew his musicians’ network leading to work in Broadway shows. Many would be content performing on Broadway, but not Landrus. He continued to compose and produce albums and six years ago started a quest for a Ph.D. at Rutgers University. This started his university teaching career as well, and he recently earned that Ph.D.

I am pleased to let you know Landrus has accepted a tenure track position at Sacramento State University and will begin teaching in the fall. He met Sac State jazz professor Steve Roach eight years ago as adjudicators for the Reno Jazz Festival and they have kept in touch. Knowing him and other professors there, he applied and was pleasantly surprised when his former McQueen high school band director, Clay Redfield, was on the interview panel. 

What sealed the deal for Landrus was that they encouraged him to keep active in the international jazz scene and that he will be conducting the jazz orchestra. He will stay in his Brooklyn home and commute to teach. He is staying to help raise his two young children and as he says, “the New York jazz scene is food for the soul where I can perform and record with my jazz heroes.” 

Speaking of jazz heroes, on May 15 he released “For Now”, his tenth album as a leader on his BlueLand label which features two of his heroes, pianist Fred Hersch and drummer Billy Hart. Accolades are coming in as it is a Downbeat Magazine Editor’s pick and JazzTimes calls the album excellent. It features his jazz quartet joined by a string quartet and a couple of drop-in guest soloists.

His next project is a big band album of original compositions. Through the years, he has written many big band charts but his studies as a Ph.D. candidate changed his approach to composition.  He will compose all new material using a standard big band orchestration. 

Landrus feels very lucky to have grown up in Reno where he had the opportunity to play in showrooms, learn and perform with the UNR jazz faculty, and make his first recording on baritone saxophone with the RJO. Most importantly, he says, was/is the support of his parents and grandparents.

More info about Brian Landrus: http://brianlandrus.com/

His new album “For Now”: http://brianlandrus.com/albums

Chuck Reider

Chuck has been a professional trombonist for over 45 years. He moved to the Reno-Tahoe area in 1978 where he played his first casino gig at the Cal-Neva and performed as a showroom musician with all the great entertainers from Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. to Diana Ross and Willie Nelson. He performed with the Reno Philharmonic for over 30 years, retiring in 2018.  He is a founding member of the Reno Jazz Orchestra and has been the Music Director since 2006. Chuck also worked as an engineer at NDOT for 18 years, has been married to his wife Candy for 33 years and they have two sons, Charlie and Matt.

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