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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Heads Up HUCD 3146



1. Fortune Teller
2. The Whistler
3. Ultralight
4. Cape Town
5. The Yes Club
6. Prelude for Lovers
7. Look Both Ways
8. Argentina
9. Comfort Zone
10. Sebastian
Bob James - Keyboards
Larry Carlton - Guitar
Nathan East - Bass, vocals
Harvey Mason - Drums
Sara East, Noah East, Elijah East - Background vocals (track 4)
Marcel East - Programming, percussion, keyboards, guitar (track 4) Esperanza Spalding - Vocals (track 6)

Fourplay's debut album for the Heads Up label has an appropriate title, as the music certainly has energy - although it is restrained energy, not wild. Fourplay has been recording since 1991 and has had a consistent personnel except for the replacement of Lee Ritenour with Larry Carlton in 1998. All four musicians have done extensive studio work - in pop and rock as well as jazz, so their music tends to mix genres, producing a sound which might be classed as jazz-fusion or jazz-funk. Keyboardist Bob James is known for his association with Creed Taylor's CTI label, and his own recordings have often been in the fusion mould, while guitarist Larry Carlton came to prominence in the Crusaders, and drummer Harvey Mason was part of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters.

If you are prejudiced against jazz-fusion, you may well dislike this album, but if you are open-minded enough to accept the various strands that have fed into modern jazz, this CD offers many rewards. Now and then it veers dangerously close to the "smooth jazz" category, but this is because the tunes are mostly melodious and it is offset by the expertise of the musicians. The sympathetic interplay between keyboard and guitar may remind you of that between Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays in Metheny's bands, although those groups are possibly more complex. And Nathan East's atmospheric wordless vocals are very like those used by Metheny in some of his albums.

The drumming on some tracks is almost robotically unvaried, and I could have done without the massed voices (presumably the bassist's relatives) on Cape Town, especially with the mechanistic handclaps. The solo vocal of Esperanza Spalding in Prelude for Lovers is much more acceptable, as it is soulfully individual.

Despite the occasional embarrassments, this is a fine album of very acceptable music. The quartet even goes into a straightforward four-four jazz rhythm in Look Both Ways. Fine solos by Bob James and Larry Carlton add to the appeal, and I can't argue with music being pleasant to listen to. Perhaps this album isn't what fashionable people would consider "cutting-edge" but nevertheless I like it a lot.

Tony Augarde





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