by Fourplay – reviewed by Chris Mann
can be few people reading who have not heard Fourplay or at
least one of the four giants of contemporary jazz who make up
Larry Carlton, bassist/vocalist Nathan East, keyboard man Bob
James and drummer Harvey Mason are Fourplay and this is their
eighth album (if you include their “Best Of” collection).
their third album since Larry Carlton replaced Lee Ritenour and
their first album for RCA/Bluebird.
They are noted for their consistent high standard of
composition and musicianship – in short they are one of very
few contemporary jazz supergroups.
has an exotic introduction and retains a nicely offbeat feel
throughout, thanks largely to Harvey Mason’s inventive
drumming. The usual
Fourplay sounds are there: that trademark snare drum, the
bass/vocal scat and Bob James’ assured piano but the guitar
solo is rockier than we’re used to on a Fourplay album.
Fans of a
solid 4/4 groove should like That’s The
is very radio-friendly with Larry Carlton giving the melody an
ultra-clean sound. On
keyboards, this just could not be anyone other than Bob James
– his sound is unmistakable.
staccato Break It Out makes me
smile because of its clever groove, which manages to stay
pulls another uncharacteristic solo out of the bag – this time
a wah-wah type sound is used, and it’s nice once you get over
the initial surprise.
East and Harvey Mason lock in tight to produce a funky groove
(notice how much I’m using that word…) on Rollin’.
On a studio album I guess there has to be some restraint
– I’d love to hear the fellas get down with a live version
of this. Don’t
play it too safe guys!
Mason Jr. produced the lovely Let’s Make
Love – a classy R&B vocal with bluesy, gospel and
even country flavours. The
vocal performance by Nathan East is so strong I wonder why they
have ever called in guest vocalists.
He co-wrote the song with Babyface and if this doesn’t
get serious airplay I’ll join a thrash metal band!
track is a very sombre and emotional piece.
Everything is stripped down to its essentials and the
acoustic guitar works very well.
Fourplay do things like this superbly.
expect a song called Tally Ho! to
be energetic and fun? Me
too – and it is. Harvey
Mason’s crisp rimshots and cymbal work make a masterful
metronome for the band to do their stuff.
It’s got a “Birdland”-type jauntiness.
Carlton burns on this one!
the rhythm on Café L’Amour.
Big, bad bass, a sparse and uncompromising snare and a
nice break with spacey synths.
This track darts off down alleys of urban funk,
drum’n’bass and tops it off with tasty guitar. Boys – more jams like this please! Rewind!
guitar gets dirty for Ju-Ju, which
has a head-nodding bluesy feel.
I adore “Blues Force” from the CD “Yes, Please!”
because it’s melodic and structured – this is looser and
more of a jam. In
front of the right audience it must be dynamite.
Again, it’s not a typical sound from the foursome…
simplicity of Goin’ Back Home is
very appealing. Larry
Carlton takes lead on acoustic guitar and that bluesy feel is
never far away. Would
work better as a 4-minute song than a 6-minute song maybe.
its toes – that’s the pretty Karma.
Classic Fourplay: fast, crisp rhythm with guitar and
keyboard sounding like one player.
If you’ve heard any other Fourplay CD’s you’ll know
what I mean. That
acoustic guitar solo is possibly the album’s high spot for me.
Master of the bass, Nathan East, scats high and low and
flies over those fat strings – er, that’s the high spot.
I just love the song, OK?
gorgeous ballad to end – Making Up
is warm and mellow. A
gorgeous ballad. Period.
here are treating the audience to a formula that’s tried and
tested but the improvisational element is stronger than
previously. Perhaps it’s that which has taken the music in some new and
there’s anything missing, it’s the same thing that was
largely absent on “Yes, Please!” – a melody that sticks in
your mind like “101 Eastbound” or the superb “Chant”.
That’s not to say I’d want Fourplay to morph into a
pop band but I think I’ll need to play this a lot before I
walk down the street singing my version of it…
RCA/Bluebird Jazz 63916
Producers - Ken Freeman, Harvey Mason Jr.