Sunday, July 12, 2020

Redman / Mehldau / McBride / Blade - Round Again (Nonesuch, 2020)

This new record is from the collaborative group of Joshua Redman on tenor and soprano saxophone, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass, and Brian Blade on drums. All of these musicians have gone on to fame as bandleaders and in-demand sidemen, but back in 1994 at the height of the young lions movement they were The Joshua Redman Quartet. Coming back together with twenty five more years of experience is an interesting feat, with the fiery spirit of youth tempered by hard won knowledge and wisdom. “Moe Honk” is a Brad Mehldau composition, where his ascending piano frees up space for Redman’s rising saxophone flurries. They echo each other nicely amid cymbal splashes before the saxophone breaks out, developing a witty solo, flush with ideas that germinate within his improvisation at high speed, while the rhythm section supports and encourages. Redman plays very fast, with an appealing light tone, sounding very inspired before stepping aside for the piano, bass and drums team. They keep the pace fast, with motoring bass and drums, and piano adding rapid and fulsome sounds. The rhythm section sounds great together leading to McBride’s well earned bass solo, supported by gentle piano and percussion. Redman dives back in, restating the theme in tandem with Mehldau and then combining with the bass and drums for a safe landing to a fine performance. Redman’s tune “Right Back Round Again” shows the talent of the ensemble, where tight bass and drums, percussive piano and focused saxophone bring everything into view. The bouncy rhythm is very propulsive, allowing the saxophone to glide over the top and build a dynamic breathing solo which lifts the whole performance to a higher level. The full band collective improvisation is very sleek and works well, with each band member playing to the others strengths in a productive manner with no ego jousting. Light piano leads the rhythm section focused part of the performance, with well played soft percussion and bass framing the action. Finally, the full band comes together for a graceful return to the melody and conclusion. This album worked well, more than a celebratory anniversary lap, it shows that this configuration of musicians really has a spark, incorporating their shared history with their individual musical paths to excellent effect. RoundAgain -

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