Archive for September 24th, 2012

Fourplay – Esprit De Four

The twelfth studio album from the mighty Fourplay, and the second record to feature ‘new boy’ Chuck Loeb, is an exciting prospect. Even moreso because I only recently became aware of its impending release. Shall we get straight to the music FFF’s (Fellow Fourplay Fans)?

Unlike the opening to many contemporary jazz outings ‘Esprit de Four’ begins on a mellow note – and I love it. ‘December Dream’ has a bassline that starts out as hardly discernible and Harvey Mason teases us with the lightest cymbal touches to keep time. It’s written in waltz time and the piano and guitar have an almost classical flavour, especially during the introduction. I know I don’t use the word ‘counterpoint’ often in my reviews, but here it is in all its beauty. A very elegant tune which builds in intensity throughout almost eight minutes. I always feel there needs to be at least track on a good contemporary jazz record that you can hum or sing and ‘Firefly’ is one such. The rhythm flies and this has the Fourplay trademarks that have kept them at the top as an ensemble for twenty years: Nate East’s whispered falsetto vocals and ever-tasteful funky bass, Harvey Mason’s crisp snare, Bob James warm keyboard textures and a truly gifted jazz guitarist – in this case the fabulous Mr Loeb. Of course, topping off these other delights is the unifying factor: melody. And it’s this that keeps me singing/humming Fourplay songs. This one won’t leave me alone and the fact that Nate East delivers one of the best solos I’ve heard him play just adds to the appeal. This is my favourite track from the album.

‘Venus’ calms us down with the sound of an acoustic bass, piano and guitar with a string synth as backing. The brushes on the cymbals keep your head nodding gently as this lovely ballad unfolds. I love Chuck Loeb’s playing. He can play it crazy, as he does on some Metro releases, or like a lullaby as here. He gets a sound that Earl Klugh’s fans (such as I) will love. ‘Sonnymoon’ is the first track I played on my internet radio station because it really is an attention-grabber. Another flying rhythm (one day I’ll properly explain what I mean by that, but listen to this song for a darn good example) and bass, guitar and keyboard lines that keep moving but leave just enough space – another Fourplay trademark. Bob James Rhodes solo has a very organic sound – more of this Bob please!

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