By James Hale | Published September 2020
Imagine your neighbor owns an exotic car. It seldom leaves the garage, but when it does roll out of the driveway, there’s no missing its great lines, its refined exhaust note and the way it accelerates away with coiled power to spare. That’s the mystique and magnetism of this all-star quartet, which makes its first recorded appearance here since 1994, when it came together under the leadership of saxophonist Joshua Redman.
While Redman contributed the most compositions to RoundAgain—three of the seven—there’s a remarkable equanimity on display, making it seem like each piece was written with the others in mind. While Brad Mehldau’s circular “Moe Honk” provides him with a vehicle for a dizzying piano solo, it’s also an ideal showcase for Redman’s effervescent virtuosity on tenor as he plays over and around the hard-charging rhythm section. Drummer Brian Blade’s “Your Part To Play,” which closes the album on a meditative note, allows each musician to develop the theme’s rising intensity in his own way without disturbing the surface unity.
On song after song, the musicians pass ideas seamlessly, anticipate and respond engagingly, and maintain an infectious energy that makes the listener feel like there’s nothing beyond their abilities. They play as one, although Blade—who, on other recordings, often distinguishes himself with his barely contained enthusiasm—stands apart with endlessly creative cymbal work. Like the playing itself, the sound is so well balanced that every part of his kit carries the same weight.
No recording is truly effortless, but this one churns forward with such precision and grace that it sounds like it is.
RoundAgain: Undertow; Moe Honk; Silly Little Love Song; Right Back Round Again; Floppy Diss; Father; Your Part To Play. (44:41)
Personnel: Joshua Redman, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Brad Mehldau, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Brian Blade, drums.