Hardest working band in Reno

The Landrus Project continues to diversify and unify musical styles on their newest release, True Colors

Green-eyed jazz-meister, Brian Landrus, plays tenor/baritone sax in The Landrus Project.

Green-eyed jazz-meister, Brian Landrus, plays tenor/baritone sax in The Landrus Project.

The inside of the jewel case has a picture of The Landrus Project. They aren’t just any degenerate jazz musicians, nor are they stuffy starched-collar types. The eight of them look like an army of musicians in T-shirts. Packing brass and bass, headphones and guitars, they each gaze out of the lineup, faces grim, ready to shoot you full of culture. It’s their job; it’s what they’re trained for.

The Landrus Project has been softening up Reno for about the last two years—playing, promoting, recording and then some. More promoting and playing. This multi-flavored ensemble features a core of eight musicians, but sometimes has as many as 14 playing on stage together. Their music has a foundation in jazz improvisation but borrows features from soul, funk, big band, hip-hop and classical—in other words, whatever they like.

Brian Landrus, tenor/baritone sax, says the music is a combination of everything. Grant Levins, keyboard, quietly smirks and calmly agrees, “It’s all, really. We just play all music.”

Their diversity comes across in True Colors, the group’s second release. It is jazz, but you might not hear this jazz on AM radio. Many of the songs include the turntables of DJ Ecto One. Grooving rhythms and flowering jams dominate the mood of this full-length CD. Track 5, “Untold Story,” features a lurking sax melody, ghostly singing and an extremely danceable beat. The next track, “Beyond,” explores Marley’s world through Coltrane’s eyes. It’s definitely precise music, planned and measured.

Landrus writes a majority of the band’s songs, sometimes up to three a week. He brings the skeleton of a melody or a progression to the band, and they have an inspiration free-for-all. There is a lot of opportunity for spontaneity planned into many of the songs they write, leaving them room to stretch out a three-minute CD cut into an eight-minute jam at a show. There is a decided crispness to much of the music and a playful dynamic between musicians.

The Landrus Project has a lot of combined talent and experience. They have all played individually with ‘heavy cats’ in the entertainment and jazz worlds or with world-class talent at UNR competitions. Training and practicing are familiar to the band. They are all serious about being working musicians, creating original music and entertaining an audience.

Gavin Templeton, alto sax, says they want to really move people. “We’re trying to give people a new genre to sink their teeth into.”

The band members love and hate the old music standards, and it seems they’ve created something different. They’re bridging ground and synthesizing sound in a dramatically different way than many bands right now. Templeton says it’s satisfying and exciting doing original work.

“Labels love us but get stuck because they can’t classify us,” he says. “I don’t mind that.”

Everyone in The Landrus Project loves playing music—it’s their first love, in some cases. In order to spend time with that love, they have to build, sweat and conquer. Armed with pockets full of flyers and rounds of duct tape, The Landrus Project plans to steadily invade the musical consciousness of Reno. They work for a living; that’s their job.