Remember when Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Brian Blade, fast-rising talents relatively new to New York, played together for about 18 months in Redman’s first group as a leader, released a well-received album (1994’s MoodSwing), and then mostly went their own ways? Twenty-six years later, they’ve gotten the band back together, and it’s cause for celebration. The four now constitute an all-star quartet, albeit one that frequently sounds as if the members never split up, continuing instead to grow in tandem, both in stature and in wisdom.
No reruns allowed: RoundAgain features a fresh batch of tunes by these acclaimed artists, bolstered by each player’s gifts as a top-shelf instrumentalist, powered by their steadfast ability to sync up, and informed by their collective experience in a wide variety of settings.
Saxophonist Redman contributes three pieces, including “Silly Little Love Song,” which sports a catchy melody, soul-jazz colorings, and a solo section that starts with McBride’s bluesy, fleet-fingered bass declarations and closes with an extended, increasingly frantic tenor improvisation and a final chill-down. Redman’s pirouetting, aptly titled “Undertow,” with tenor and bass initially responding in unison to Mehldau’s circling lines, opens the disc, and he also turns in the hiccupping “Right Back Round Again,” another showcase for sprawling, fruitful improvisations by himself and Mehldau.
McBride’s extended speedy solo and Blade’s creative drum buildup are among the highlights of Mehldau’s ascending-and-descending “Moe Honk,” and the pianist additionally contributes “Father,” with soprano and bass matching on the quirky theme. The jaunty “Floppy Diss” by McBride offers much space to the composer, who slips in rumbling runs and some bending chordal interjections, and the set is capped with Blade’s “Your Part to Play,” which evolves from stately and elegant to manic and back again. There are no weak links here.