Electing the gods of smooth jazz, the group Fourplay would certainly be a perfect candidate for Olympus. The contemporary jazz quartet comprises keyboardist Bob James, drummer Harvey Mason, bassist/vocalist Nathan East and guitarist Larry Carlton, who replaced Lee Ritenour. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1991, followed by a chain of successful albums, continued with their new album Energy, which will be released on September 23, 2008.

“I look forward to an adventurous, classy and soul-filled record that showcases our talents individually and collectively,” comments Nathan East. “Until the last note is played, it’s hard to predict the exact direction. That’s what we love about jazz – the improvisation that happens in the moment.”

The mysterious Fortune Teller features Larry Carlton on guitar involved in an interplay with Bob James on keys. Elegance and ease are the significant and distinguishing marks of this sultry track.

Don't await on the The Whistler a whistle or flute. Bob James generates this sound on his Yamaha equipment. He is the wizard of the keys and music is his magic. The melodies are not complex but gain their attractiveness by the right notes at the right places.

Larry Carlton penned the next title Ultralight. It's a typical Larry Carlton song with superb chords in the style one can hear on his album Gift and on other tunes like Sleepwalk and Strikes Twice. Larry plays his legendary Gibson MR.335 LC. For details about his gear visit his website.

Cape Town narrates the story of Nathan East's grandparents, who traveled to South Africa two generations ago to do missionary work. “After several weeks at sea,” East explains, “their ship finally landed on the beautiful shores of Cape Town. Their calling took them to the village of Middledrift, South Africa, where they gave birth to our parents, continued their vision as missionaries, and laid the foundation for truth and reconciliation.” Nathan East performs as lead singer supported by a choir of the children Elijah, Sara and Noah East.

The Yes Club showcases Bob James on keys. His overdubbing technique is so sublime, you won't even remark it. Superb how Nathan's bass bounces along the melody line and Harvey's work on drums, cymbals and cowbell is off the hook.

There is much excitement and agitation around Esperanza Spalding. After her entrance to Heads Up International and her debut on this label Esperanza (2008) she appeared on several productions, for example Stanley Clarke's Toys Of Men and on Prelude For Lovers.  “Heads Up President Dave Love suggested Esperanza, and the rest, as they say, is history. Talk about energy, she’s got it! her fresh, intimate style was a perfect match for this song. She was a dream to work with in the studio, full of ideas and confidence. We’re really happy to have her as our special guest,” comments Bob James. And indeed her innocent freshness and vocal youth communicates to the listener.

Look Both Ways is a genius amalgamation of contemporary jazz and bebop. “While we were recording this song,” says East, “Bob unexpectedly broke into this blazing piano solo and Harvey jumped all over it – swinging and bopping as only he can. It was very inspiring and energetic, a moment I’ll never forget. We listened to the playback, and the magic that we heard helped us make the decision about using that particular take for the record. Those moments are like lightning, and they don’t usually strike twice.”

Harvey Mason is an avid fan of Carlos Jobim's music. A primary force behind the creation of the Bossa Nova style, Jobim is acknowledged as one of the most influential popular composers of the 20th century. Harvey certainly composed Argentina in the style of Carlos Jobim. Starting with an orchestral arrangement the song flips between the relaxed Bossa Nova and the orchestral style.

Fourplay reveal their Rock side on Comfort Zone with Larry's bluesy guitar, Harvey metronomic drums and Bob's piano jam.

“I surprised everyone by bringing in a sketch based on a chord progression from a Bach piano piece I had been playing at home,’ says Bob James. “It occurred to me that it might provide the framework for a Fourplay song. We all have classical backgrounds to some degree, so I thought it would be fun to try something to bring out that aspect of our performing.” The great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach inspired the group for this final track in a Baroque form. The vocal interpretation is a popular jazzy approach to Bach's classical music.

Energy is an album full of new inspirations and surprises. Tasteful and elegant in the interpretation the group opens on every album new doors but never changes their significant sound. This is their intention: “Our constant aim is to explore and push the boundaries while still satisfying our longtime fans, who have traveled this journey with us for nearly two decades," explains Harvey Mason. There is enough energy in this band for a strong continuation.



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  • Album information:

    Title: Energy
    Artist: Fourplay
    Year: 2008
    Length: 0:50:34
    Genre: General Jazz
    Label: Heads Up International


    01 Fortune Teller [5:53]
    02 The Whistler [5:27]
    03 Ultralight [4:18]
    04 Cape Town [4:59]
    05 The Yes Club [5:10]
    06 Prelude For Lovers [3:10]
    07 Look Both Ways [6:39]
    08 Argentina [5:23]
    09 Comfort Zone [4:55]
    10 Sebastian [4:42]