A return to the quartet from saxophonist Joshua Redman's Moodswing (Warner Bros., 1994). Yes, 26 years has passed. A great album a generation ago. RoundAgain is a reunion of masters: Redman with pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. Each at the very top of their games and their respective domains. Sax, piano, bass, and drums. Holy shit, could you assemble a band better than this one? Modern masters, now in their middle years (50's) are still playing at the leading edge and have emerged with truly great music.
The thing about the album, though, is that it is so good, so perfectly played that it almost seems too easy. From the very first song, "Undertow," the band melds a sly groove with an avant-garde sensibility. The album is a relatively short 45 minutes and 7 songs (compared to Moodswing's 70 minutes and 11 songs), but they make every moment and note count.
"Moe Honk's" title playfully reflects the song's lively, quirky bounce with a sparkling smile. Redman rips off a long double-time solo after the opening theme, full of fun, playful ideas, followed by Mehldau's dancing, soaring turn. McBride and Blade follow up with a propulsive, explosive duet. Redman's closing solo boasts impish fun in every note.
"Silly Little Love Song" is a self-deprecating title for what is a very sweetly played tune that is full of good-natured sweetness and wrapped up with Memphis-tinged soul. Yummy and warm. "Right Back Round Again" is a whirling dervish of a tune. Soaring, funky, and swirling, with a solid blues DNA. "Floppy Diss," has a somewhat dystopian yet comical digital alternate reality that we all are sucked into daily, becoming somewhat robotic in the process. But nothing to take too seriously. "Father" slows it down a bit in this up-tempo but relaxed waltz that perhaps conveys a boy's impression of his dad (Dewey Redman?). It's loving in it's upbeat and positive tone. It ends on a more pensive note.
The Finale, "Your Part to Play," opens with a single note slow bass solo, joined by an equally slow piano. Then Redman's sax enters at barely a whisper. It starts as a serious but caring conversation of great tenderness and depth and then escalates into some real passion and tender ecstasy.
This is an album delving deeply into many themes and feelings reflecting life today in our crazy, troubled, dark, and yet somehow extraordinary times. It is alive, sublime, deep and exquisite in its tone and interplay. Four masters deliver a truly satisfying album.
Undertow; Moe Honk; Silly Little Love Song; Right Back Round Again; Floppy Diss; Father; Your Part to Play.
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