Posts Tagged ‘ Fourplay ’

Fourplay – Silver

The disc is silver. Four silver coins adorn the cover. And the music is certainly precious. Fourplay releases its 25th anniversary album, Silver (Heads Up International, 2015). With little exception, each song title plays off the anniversary theme.

The supergroup debuted in 1990, four accomplished jazz artists who have been both sidemen and leaders. The current group consists of Bob James, piano, keyboards and synths; Nathan East, bass and vocals; Chuck Loeb, acoustic and electric guitars, and synths; and Harvey Mason, drums, percussion, vibes and synths. Founding guitarist Lee Ritenour makes an appearance, as does his replacement, Larry Carlton. Additional players are Kirk Whalum, tenor sax on “Precious Metal”; Chris Wells, background vocals on “Silver Streak”; John Beasley, additional keyboards on “Windmill”; Mitch Forman, organ on “Silverado”; and Tom Keane, synth on “Aniversario.”

Loeb composed the opener, “Quicksilver.” It’s an upbeat, yet mellow piece in a way that’s mildly reminiscent of “Bali Run,” the first track of the group’s debut, Fourplay. East provides a whispery, wordless chant during the chorus. That it has similar sound to “Bali Run” may not be an accident. In the liner notes, Loeb writes of his fondness for Fourplay from its inception, mentioning his great admiration for Ritenour and Carlton. “With this recording, I urged my bandmates to revisit their discography and keep the spirit of that very first recording, and all those that followed, present.”

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Fourplay – Silver

Fourplay celebrates this year their 25th anniversary. Their current members are keyboardist Bob James, drummer Harvey Mason, bassist/vocalist Nathan East and guitarist Chuck Loeb. Matching the jubilee the album is called Silver.

The individual album titles are related to this precious metal. As special guests the jubilarians invited Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, and Kirk Whalum. Additional musicians are vocalist Chris Wells, keyboardist John Beasley, organist Mitch Forman and synth player Tom Keane.

An established team that celebrates his music at the highest level mixed by veteran engineer and producer Don Murray. That is the way legends are created. Quicksilver, the liquid metal of mercury is starting the album in typical Fourplay style. Fluid, elegant, dynamic and with great verve.

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Fourplay – Silver

SilverLongevity among jazz groups is a surprisingly rare commodity. With relatively few exceptions, a run of a few years, at most, is standard; for a collective of jazz musicians to stick together for a decade or more is almost unheard of. That puts Fourplay, who celebrates their 25th anniversary this year, in a league of their own. Since 1990, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Bob James, guitarist Chuck Loeb (who joined five years ago) and drummer Harvey Mason have continued to explore together, their efforts resulting in what All Music Guide called one of “the most intuitive, forward-thinking and focused groups in modern jazz.”

On Silver, set for release November 20, 2015 on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, Fourplay celebrates that unprecedented bond with their most wide-ranging and gratifying recording to date. Following the theme of the occasion, most of the 10 new original compositions comprising Silver play off of the anniversary, bearing titles such as “Sterling,” “Precious Metal” and “A Silver Lining.” Just like its namesake, Silver shines, each track a brilliant example of what has made this formidable ensemble—each of whom also has a highly successful career outside of the band—one of the most respected in the jazz world.

For each member of Fourplay, the group’s ability to remain so creative after so many years together has been a reward in itself. Says Nathan East, “It became apparent from our very first album that this particular group of musicians had a special sound. We appreciate whatever that chemistry or magic has been between us and have had a great time on our journey together as we’ve developed our music.” Continue reading

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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Fourplay – Esprit De Four

Smooth Jazz supergroup Fourplay is set to release their new album Espirit De Four, on September 18. For two decades, the quartet has enjoyed consistent artistic and commercial success by blending elements of R&B, pop and a variety of other sounds to their unwavering jazz foundations. Over the course of the band’s career, spanning a dozen recordings, six have climbed to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Album charts.

The group is comprised of leader/pianist Bob James, bassist Nathan East, drummer Harvey Mason, Jr. and guitarist Chuck Loeb, who joined the band in 2010 following the departure of Larry Carlton. Fourplay will be part of the Smooth Jazz Serenades the Seas Cruise setting sail from Barcelona, Spain on September 27 and will begin a U.S. tour on October 12 in Newport Beach, CA.

The follow up to 2010’s Let’s Touch the Sky, this is the second album to feature the group s newest member, guitarist Chuck Loeb. Here he joins the all-star lineup of keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason, each of whom contribute at least two compositions to the release.

One of the more notable tracks is the Bob James composition Put Our Hearts Together which he wrote for a concert in a region severely impacted by the devastating Japanese tsunami of 2011. It appears as both an instrumental and vocal version on the CD. Japanese pop star Seiko Matsuda lends her voice on this moving tribute.

Esprit De Four is available at

Too long a Fourplay? There’s no such thing! :)

After 20 years of Fourplay, maybe they felt we should move on…”, says Chuck Loeb in a jocular manner later that night, employing the pun on words in the band’s name when introducing one of the songs he contributed to Fourplay’s 12th album “Let’s Touch the Sky”. While the cover art suggests that very endeavor with the band member’s hands reaching up, nearly two hours of stellar live music performances left no doubt among avid music lovers who had flocked to Bayerischer Hof Night Club on this November, 8th 2011 night that Smooth Jazz’s famous supergroup are doing exactly that: They’re not only touching the sky, but weaving a musical skyscape with arrangements and solos that exude virtuosity, verve and vitality in equal parts.

Katharina Ehmki, CEO of Ehmki Music Management, promoter and press relations at the venue, landed the renowned music act as a major highlight of her New York at Bayerischer Hof series, and proved her experienced hand at knowing Jazz fans’ expectations: Fourplay packed the place to the last available seat and had every non-seated area crowded as well! Which might explain why fans had started to line up well before admittance at 8 pm, as Fourplay had sold out many venues prior to coming to Munich. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time and I was curious to see, what Chuck Loeb would sound like in this rarity of a group of musical heavyweights, where each of them is undoubtedly a leader in their own right, yet they appear to have kept ego out of the way and managed to amalgamate four strong musical personalities into a band – and with a formula that’s been going strong for the past two decades with only two changes to the line-up: Prior to Loeb, Larry Carlton held the guitar seat from 1998 through 2010, while Lee Ritenour was a founding member and stayed from 1991 through 1997.


Fourplay – Let’s Touch The Sky

When a band deserves the title supergroup, than it’s Fourplay. The group exists since more than 20 years. Their current members are keyboardist Bob James, drummer Harvey Mason, bassist/vocalist Nathan East and guitarist Chuck Loeb, who replaced Larry Carlton this year.

“All four of us have been in this business long enough to know that there’s always pressure to compromise, and we don’t want to do that,” says James. “We don’t want to end up in the middle of the pack. We always aim to be leaders, and take the music to another level and raise the standards higher. I think the music on this new record, thanks in large part to Chuck’s early contributions – and to the ongoing team spirit of the band as a whole – is very much a reflection of that philosophy.”

Their new album is entitled Let’s Touch The Sky and an expression of this attitude. Bob James closes with the starting title song the gap to his own solo projects reflecting over the style of his early years and his fellow musicians follow him on this journey. Chuck Loeb excels on guitar in an exquisite ornamentation. Fourplay is back.

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