Born on September 14, 1978, Landrus grew up in Reno, Nevada, and discovered the saxophone at 12. An excitable kid with a wild streak, he fell in love with the horn, a passion stoked by his middle school band teacher Frank Perry, who gave him recordings by Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and Don Menza. “I just fell in love with it,” Landrus says. “I knew that’s what I’m going to do with my life. I practiced hours and hours every day, playing along with those recordings.”
His discipline quickly paid off, and before he reached high school Landrus was subbing regularly when his saxophone teacher couldn’t make his weekly jazz gig. Featuring veteran musicians working in the casino show bands, the band included the town’s top players, most of whom were three or four times his age.
“I’d go and get my ass handed to me,” Landrus says. “But it was great. I was learning what I needed to know, and they helped me tremendously. They encouraged me like crazy. By the time I was in high school I started writing music and put my own quartet together. I was 16 when I played my first big show gig with the Coasters and the Drifters, and I got in with those old soul and R&B acts.”
Through his teenage years he focused on the tenor sax, playing in bands around the region. But it soon became clear that the bari offered a wider and better assortment of gigs, and he increasingly devoted himself to the horn. After earning a BA in music from the University of Nevada Reno, he launched his own nonet and spent several years working in a wide range of settings. The influence of his Reno show band mentors led Landrus to add an array of instruments to his arsenal, and he can answer the call on more than a dozen wind instruments.