Listening to the seven covers and two originals that make up Circular Dreaming, Quest’s tribute to Miles Davis’ “second great quintet,” it is impossible not to hear the two bands’ differences. But how much busier pianist Richie Beirach is than Herbie Hancock, how much less busy drummer Billy Hart is than Tony Williams—that’s ultimately irrelevant. The long-lived quartet’s collectivity, and its members’ abilities to challenge and inspire each other, is what it draws from Miles’ band. This disc celebrates that influence.
On that front, and again like Miles’ quintet, the drummer sets much of the course. Beirach, bassist Ron McClure and soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman all solo on “Prince of Darkness,” for example, but in each case it’s Hart who pushes them along; he finds off-kilter accents in McClure’s improv that recast the bass in mid-flight. The hard-driving “Footprints” finds him in a sympathetic duet with Beirach, egging the pianist into a slippery, ever-faster trajectory, and “Paraphernalia” powers forward on the momentum of his urgent kick.
The pianist, too, pulls a lot of weight. He often reconciles the horn and rhythm section’s diverging paths. On “Nefertiti,” Liebman’s long lines slice through McClure and Hart’s steady swing, but Beirach ties them together with his rhythmic contrasts. He also shares much of the spotlight with Liebman—still the group’s de facto leader—on themes (“Vonetta,” “Circular Dreaming”) as well as wide-open accompaniment that lets the piano develop new harmonies in the moment, as on “Hand Jive.”
Circular Dreaming doesn’t just reflect Davis’ legacy, though: It also reflects Quest’s artistic maturity. The quartet is considerably seasoned from 1986’s Quest II, the first album with this lineup. They’ve traded some of their aggressive zeal for a more sensitive, intuitive approach. It serves them well.