by Fourplay – reviewed by Chris Mann
can be very few people reading this who aren't familiar with
Fourplay. To jog your memory, it's a classy collective which
brings the talents of Bob James, Larry Carlton, Nathan East and
Harvey Mason together. Why not read my review of Heartfelt
to get yourself in the mood for a review of their ninth CD from
used to Fourplay covering classic songs and I’m not sure they’ve
ever done it as well as on Sting’s Fields of Gold.
There are minimal vocals but the beauty of the original is
conveyed so well, that’s not an issue.
It washes over you… Play Around It has a more
hip-hop beat with phat bass and a whispered half-rap courtesy of
Nathan East. Carlton’s
clean, bluesy guitar weaves in and out, just like in the good old
sounds more like “old” Fourplay and the urgent piano riff leads
into a very melodic midtempo piece where Harvey Mason’s drumming
– particularly the trademark tom-tom sound – comes to the fore.
If you wonder what I mean by “trademark tom-tom sound”
listen to the Brothers Johnson’s jaw-dropping “Ain’t We Funkin’
electric blues are a treat and this song has a nice live feel. Nathan East delivers a more conventional vocal on the pretty
title track. It’s
slow and gentle and reminds me of Eric Clapton’s “Change The
East’s long-time association with ‘old slow hand’, maybe
that’s not surprising. Whatever,
it’s a lovely song.
muted samba sound of Mason’s Rozil is so gentle, it’s
almost not there. It’s
classic Fourplay and less is more.
East’s melodic high-register bass solo delights, as does
Bob James’ lazy doodling on the piano.
These guys always make good music sound so easy.
I love the offhand finger snaps and bluesy guitar that kick
off the strolling Cool Train.
I took this CD on vacation to the Canary Islands recently and
most days I couldn’t get this song out of my head.
Who said the tunes on this album are forgettable??
This is every bit as lovely as the sublime Blues Force
from “Yes Please!”
good strong piano sets the pace on the measured and complex Avalabop.
Mason’s cymbal work and rimshots tick away and a mellow,
smoky jazz number unfolds. Carlton takes centre stage, followed by
Bob James and then by East with his “scat’n’slap” piece.
All solos are superb. My
favourite song is the gently funky Firehouse Chill – this
is what it says is: seriously cool and it’s a shout out to
Firehouse Recording where part of the CD was recorded. The bass
bounces along and the guitar is tasty.
When I wasn’t humming Cool Train on vacation, I was
humming this. The high
scat vocal isn’t too hard to follow – and that’s the secret of
writing a feelgood song. My girlfriend’s just started humming it – well done guys!
atmospheric intro to Departure is reminiscent of and old Yes
song, well OK then, the middle section of “Close to the Edge” (I
can’t believe I said that) but it opens out into something almost
certainly elegant and Carlton’s acoustic guitar is set in a
perfect context. The
way the sound swells is deeply romantic.
Bob James, take a bow! Dancing
cymbals introduce the jazzy 147 4th Street and ironically
Larry Carlton sounds very like his old buddy Lee Ritenour on this
song. That is to say,
he sounds great – just a little different, with gorgeous
chords and that electric sound is warmer than when he’s going for
that blues “burn”. Ah,
what a treat it would be to hear Carlton and Rit duet on this one…
I reviewed Fourplay's last CD, I was concerned that, despite the
astounding musicianship, there was nothing that I could sing while I
was walking down the street. I'm used to singing intricate
things - I seem to have spent most of the 90's singing tunes by
Chick Corea's Elektric Band - it's just that the music didn't get
under my skin.
now and I'm drawn to Fourplay's distinctive brand of jazz as much as
I ever was. All four performers contribute songs and there are
some real gems among them. My promo copy of “Journey”
arrived months before I put pen to paper. I wasn't reluctant
to write about it - I was just enjoying it so much, it became a
prized part of my collection. Yes, I went out and bought it
and that was the trigger to share my love of it with you...
RCA Bluebird – 61358-2
Producers – Fourplay, Marcel East