Pragmatic thinking is naturally at loggerheads with ambition when it comes to releasing a double album. Given our singles-driven streaming culture, the decline of physical sales, a pandemic-era dearth of touring (and its attendant marketing value), and generally stunted attention spans, it’s certainly not the sensible move. But that’s not to say it’s the wrong course of action. Sometimes there’s actually something very right about bucking the trends, following your gut and going big, as saxophonist Rahsaan Barber ably demonstrates with Mosaic.
Teaming up with the close-knit rhythm section of pianist Matt Endahl, bassist Jack Aylor and drummer Derrek Phillips, and sharing the front line with a pair of alternating guests—twin brother Roland on trombone (and conch shell) and Nathan Warner on trumpet—Barber delivers a slate of originals that, when taken together, form the most complete picture of his artistry to date. Switching between alto, tenor, and baritone horns, he handles himself with aplomb while moving all over the map. Opener “Quarantine Queens” deals in straight-time soul within a plaintive frame. “The Pink Piranha” seduces with sly sentiments. An endearing “Koala” offers tranquil beauty. And the intense “Panic Point” plays on extreme passion and fear.
Barber shows tremendous range during these travels—blowing robustly in “The Mountains and the Clouds,” dropping into church for a “Sunrise Service,” driving hard down the center lane on “Swang That Thang,” standing tall to deliver a tearful and moving lament in “Breonna Taylor (How Many More?)”—and his tremendous heart and solid instincts serve as common denominators that cradle all of this music. At 95 minutes, the program may run long, but Rahsaan Barber and his band never wear out their welcome.