The Alison Brown Quartet's new album, Replay, isn't a live album; rather, it's a studio recording comprised of tunes the group had been performing during its live shows. Replay was recorded over two days between concert engagements, and the limited recording time prevented overthinking; as a result, each track possesses an engaging freshness and energy.
Most of the 15 tracks on Replay are less than four minutes long, and each is exquisitely composed and performed, like tiny, well-cut jewels in a musical treasure chest. This is music created by artists who are well versed in a range of styles. Like Bela Fleck, Brown's musical aesthetic ranges widely; she grew up steeped in bluegrass music, and at one time was a member of Alison Krauss' bluegrass group Union Station. Brown's bluegrass roots are in evidence on tracks such as "Chicken Road" and "Shoot the Dog," but she places her banjo in a variety of musical settings; Replay also includes the classically influenced "Without Anastasia," the jazzy "G Bop" and "Daytime TV," the Celtic-flavored "The Wonderful Sea Voyage (of Holy St. Brendan)" and the Latin-inflected "Mambo Banjo." The album closes with the hauntingly lyrical "The Promise of Spring," which finds Brown laying aside her banjo in favor of delicately picked guitar.
Brown is ably supported by her tight band, which includes pianist John R. Burr, bassist Garry West and drummer Kendrick Freeman. Together they have created a deeply satisfying recording that is filled with intelligent, well-considered and very appealing music.