Michael Landau – Liquid Quartet Live
The Players Club/Mascot Label Group
CD: 10 Songs, 71 Minutes
Styles: Improvisational Rock, Psychedelic Blues, Live Album, All Original Songs
Boz Scaggs. Joni Mitchell. Rod Stewart. Seal. Michael Jackson. James Taylor. Richard Marx. Pink Floyd. Phil Collins. Whitney Houston. Miles Davis. What do all of these household names have in common? They’re all brilliant artists renowned throughout the world. Now, here’s another, more difficult question: Whom do all of these household names have in common? A brilliant, renowned session musician named Michael Landau. He’s been in the biz for more than 40 years, so some of you may wonder: “Why haven’t I heard of him yet?” The thing about session virtuosos is that they lend their glory to others instead of claiming the spotlight for themselves. Yet Mike and his own ensembles have earned many accolades throughout the decades. His latest release, Liquid Quartet Live, aims to demonstrate why he deserves to shine.
The album and its ten Zen-like tracks defy categorization. Some words that come to my mind while listening: esoteric, improvisational, lengthy, strange. Some words that don’t: catchy, danceable, earworm, Billboard topper. It’s also not blues in – well, a blues sense. There are no traditional rhythms or subjects here, with the possible exception of the most relatable song: the second, “Well Let’s Just See.” It’s a warning of vengeance against a subpar partner. “I hear you’re moving on. Trying to hide it in another place. Yeah, you’re running from it all, but you’re gonna fall, baby. No covering the damn disgrace.” Later on: “Daddy gonna make you pay. Do you think you ought to pray?” It’s got killer guitar, but trying to keep track of the drums’ intricacies might prove a challenge. Track five, “Bad Friend,” is also down-to-earth. It features an SRV-like intro and shameless, shouty vocals: “Sticky little fingers got a taste for treasure!” The rest of these original selections allow you to zone out and tune in to your deepest thoughts. They’ll serve as perfect background tunes while you’re chilling at home or your favorite venue.
Landau was born and raised in L.A., growing up on The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Cream and The Band. His grandfather arranged and played woodwinds during the swing era, with the Dorsey Brothers and Benny Goodman. In his early teens, Michael became highly interested in jazz and electric jazz music. Weather Report, Pat Martino and Jaco Pastorius were some of his early obsessions. From this diverse blend of influences, his sound and path began to take shape. His current group focuses on the improvisation and spontaneity of live shows.
“I live for those live moments when the sound and emotion becomes this monstrous force bigger than the individual musicians; it becomes a unique creation and feel, exciting and calming at the same time: difficult to describe, but I’m addicted to it.”
Liquid Quartet Live is certainly unique and difficult to describe. Is it blues?