Every now and then a record will really stand out, not necessarily because its such a radical departure, but only because its just that good. “The Four Brothers - Together Again!” is one of those records. There’s swing, and then there’s Swing, and this record has both in abundance, but done with an unparalleled subtle grace. The Four Brothers were four saxophonists (Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Herbie Steward, Serge Chaloff) who originally met in Woody Herman’s band back in the late 40s. The idea of so many low saxophones (3 tenors and 1 bari) was a bit unusual, so the brothers worked on trying to get the softest smoothest sound they could get. After many years apart, they reunited just this one time to record in 1957 with a piano/bass/drums backing trio. The slinky smooth style of Lester Young is a big influence, as well as the voicings and style of Gerry Mulligan, who had also played with the brothers in Hermman's band. Its that Mulligan sound that has this record reminding me of “Birth of the Cool”, cool meets swing taken to high art, but Four Brothers are not quite as abstract and artsy as the Miles/Gil Evans set. With the Four Brothers its all about that old school groove, but there is nothing corny or nostalgic going on here, the Brothers gently update that swing feel with the “cool” vibes of the 50s scene.
Players this in tune and in sync are rare, an obvious reference would be Woody Herman or Ellington’s band, or possibly even Glen Miller. Although Miller is sometimes derided by hardcore jazz fans, his saxophone section did achieve a smooth sound that even impressed the Duke himself, and sometimes the Brothers will recall the effortless sound that Miller perfected. Every song on here is a gem, but some highlights include the Gerry Mulligan penned “Four and One More” and Jimmy Giuffre’s “The Four Brothers”, the song which initially introduced their unique sound in the Herman band. Another personal favorite is “A Quick One”, a thrown together jam with an ultra catchy odd-metered opening riff. One more plus that adds to this album's unique appeal is that there are no worn out standards on here. In fact, many of the tunes on here were written for this session and arranged expressly for what these guys do best, classic 40s swing reinterpreted with a bit of ironic 50s cool and played by four cats who move as one.