Since 1991 one of the most definitive bands in modern day jazz has been at the forefront of creativity and versatility. With a catalog of successful albums under their belt, they remain as one of the most touted groups of their kind. Considered by many to be one of the last of the so-called super groups, their music is always high on the list of must haves. In addition, even after seventeen years in an ever-changing tumultuous jazz environment, Fourplay continues to be at the top of their game. Their latest release entitled ‘Energy’ is the band’s 11th release overall and their debut effort for the Heads Up International Record Label. With an infrastructure that reads like a “Who’s Who in Jazz,” keyboardist Bob James, guitarist Larry Carlton, bass/vocalist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason have struck gold once again with their newest recording.
Just as the title of the album suggests, subtle energy and melodically enhanced grooves has always been a related trademark of Fourplay from day one when their self-titled CD ‘Fourplay’ was released in 1991. This time out, ‘Energy’s’ enhanced melodies coupled with soulfully intact grooves have laid the foundation for a truly intriguing interaction between the listener and the group’s music. One track in particular entitled “Cape Town” is a cut that contains a smooth Afro-centric rhythm augmented by some very serious vocal contributions from Nathan East, Sara East, Noah East and Elijah East. Collectively the track has a chemistry that adds to the overall flavor of ‘Energy.’ Incidentally, the song’s storyline chronicles East’s grandparents who went to South Africa as missionaries.
Another song on the CD entitled “Prelude For Lovers” features vocalist Esperanza Spalding, one of jazz’s newest rising stars. Not only is Esperanza an excellent singer, she is one of the finest bassists around today. When listening to this track, her vocalese is as alluring and endearing as Fourplay’s unique style. Expect to hear more from Esperanza Spalding in days to come.
Of the ten tracks attached to Fourplay’s latest release, ‘Energy’ contains all of the qualitative musical trademarks the group is most known for and then some. Songs such as “Sebastian,” “Whistler” and “Comfort Zone” are all a part of the relative ease that seemingly comes with the group’s music. No matter when they are heard, whether live in concert or on one of their recordings, Fourplay is definitely one of jazz’s premier groups. ‘Energy’ is just another example of their close attention to detail, compositional excellence and some truly original dynamic grooves that are filled with improvised harmonics. Overall, this album continues a format that is especially conducive to the group’s unique formula and is the 11th in a whole string of successful recordings.
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