In a world when artist ego is a monumental construct the band is always preferable as an entity that transcends the individual. Unless of course it's like the hunger games and egos joust for survival and hegemony and to exorcise a litany of past grudges. Not here. Group think, collective endeavour is vital even in a style beyond free improvisation. And make no mistake this is highly accessible but not sell-out music making. Yes it lightly swings at times anathema to the punk-jazzer and improv head. Easy on the ear because the compositions have beginnings, middles and ends and there is a major key tonality much more than a minor key mood, the curveball which makes it special is that Joshua Redman bluesiness and the lilting lapping fluency of Brad Mehldau's consummate vision of harmony.
A few questions beg to be addressed about a band who are having a second life and return once again following RoundAgain all with stellar individual careers of their own. The first is might this new release out today satisfy more than 2020's RoundAgain? Yes because the tunes are stronger. Is it a classic like 1994's Moodswing? No. You can't repeat that magic however much all four make a decent stab at it.
Brad Mehldau sounds happier soloing than on any recording of recent years especially on the title track and yet in case hardcore reader you grumble it's too easy-going (where's the angst, skronking, a bit of chest beating - mate?) the album isn't just lollipop listening given the way Christian McBride keeps changing the beat. Breathe in deeply on the solemn 'Statuesque' but that is only a temporary serious moment because Redman's lead sound is incredibly warm not mournful and when you dive in especially on the super fluent soprano saxophone of 'Disco Ears' it's more a celebration than a dirge.
A back to the future record slice of positivity that is a pleasure from start to finish and makes you realise once again how strong the 1990s were for the melodic side of jazz when these guys crop up for such a nostalgic get together that isn't at all indulgent. Joshua Redman, clockwise from top left, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, Brian Blade. Photo: press