By Doug Collette for Glide Magazine
If LongGone proves nothing else, it is that the rekindling of chemistry between Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride & Brian Blade, as represented on 2020’s Round Again, was no fluke. Indeed, when taken together, these two releases pose the question of whether there has ever been such a reunion of elevated pedigree in the jazz oeuvre: John Coltrane’s come-and-go with Miles Davis’ in the Sixties comes to mind, but this four-way regrouping would appear to be a phenomenon unto itself.
That said, the foursome picks up right where they left off literally and figuratively. This title song radiates a relaxed, summery atmosphere as the musicians work their way into and through the composition, suggesting, more than delineating, the various melodic and rhythmic motifs. Like the foursome of pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson on 2000’s Beyond and the next year’s Passage of Time, Redman has led some outstanding ensembles since this quartet went its separate ways, but these participants’ respective careers, formidable as they are, reaffirm the natural shared instinct for thinking ahead that prevails here.
Far from predictable, though, transitions such as that from Joshua Redman’s initial rendering to Brad Mehldau’s solo on that cut are sublime in their intuitive flow. The warmth of the camaraderie permeates the sonics of these studio recordings, like the previous release, captured over two days at Sear Sound Studio C in New York, by engineer/co-producer (with Redman) James Farber who also mixed prior to the expert mastering of Greg Calbi. There was no coasting on any front in the formulation of LongGone.
“Disco Ears” is decidedly peppier all around, though hardly redolent of the environs its title suggests or the beat-laden leanings of Redman’s Elastic Band in the mid-2000s. Instead, it is, like “Statuesque,” an unpredictable progression rendered with utter fluency all around, no less in McBride’s basswork or Blade’s drum activity than the lead instruments of their long-standing comrades.
That all six of these compositions are Joshua Redman’s belies the generosity of spirit that pervades this album. Equally notable, however, is the absence of any complacency that might arise with musicians so familiar with each other, but less humble than these. All four seem to comprehend the unique position they are in, refusing to take this opportunity for granted, and thus fully extend themselves in their well-honed capabilities; on “Kite Song,” for instance, none are any less engaged than on one of their own live or studio projects, so the keen desire to connect, instrumentally and otherwise, is unmistakable.
As if to reaffirm the mutual affinity of imagination presented in tracks like “Ship to Shore,” this LP concludes with a near-thirteen-minute live elaboration on “Rejoice.” A cull of material from the 1994 album Moodswing recorded by this same quartet, this live rendition is neither an indulgence in nostalgia nor a demonstration of overfamiliarity; instead, Redman, Mehldau, McBride, and Blades authoritatively retrace their steps and, in doing so they not only ratify their unique bond, but also the various directions each man has navigated in the interim. The ever-increasing vigor of the performance becomes wholly and completely celebratory before it concludes.
It’s a fitting capper to the healthy gesture of reconnection that is LongGone. As with its predecessor, this record is very much akin to the occasion wherein old friends meet up again after a prolonged interval apart and, in very short order, find out that the traits that first brought them together not only remain in plentiful supply but have grown all the more abiding with the passage of time.