When the saxophonist Joshua Redman released “MoodSwing” in 1994, his name was becoming synonymous with a kind of renewed purpose in jazz after a decade of Neo-Classicism: a drive to freshen, to expand, to nudge past the bounds of traditionalism while holding on to its code of standards. History was still the foundation, but it was no longer the main guide.
The album’s quartet was an all-star team of young, like-minded stars to be, all in their early-to-mid 20s: Mr. Redman on tenor saxophone, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums. This was Mr. Redman’s first consistent band as a leader, and it performed together for about a year and a half in the mid-1990s. It became a mutually reinforcing support system, inching each member up the ladder toward jazz prominence.
“MoodSwing” is heavy on savory melodies taken at a swinging medium tempo, plus some ballads and more hard-charging tunes; all are Redman originals. Throughout the album, he exudes reassurance: the feeling of a young musician indulging in the comforts of a fortified tradition, and pledging to carry it with him as he ventures out into the world.