If there is any one thing that defines Fourplay, besides being one of the most consistent and extraordinarily talented groups ever to grace the contemporary jazz scene, it is that the quartet has loads of class and, as the driving catalyst for one of the tracks on this newest album, Esprit de Four, demonstrates, compassion.
The referenced track is “Put Our Hearts Together” and is inspired by and dedicated to the March 11, 2011, Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims. Actually, there are two tracks—the instrumental and the vocal versions of the same tune. It is the group’s collective voice that should call to all of us to remember that we in America are not alone as victims of tragedies. All over the world, we are truly all in this together.
The music here on Esprit de Four (due for release on Sept. 18) is as richly Fourplay as ever. The stirring lead track “December Dream” is a very attractive piece featuring Bob James’ expert caressing of the ivories and Chuck Loeb’s steady chords and jazzy riffs.
Bassist Nathan East struts his stuff majestically on bass and provides some quality scatting to boot on the up-tempo “Firefly” while drummer Harvey Mason does rhythm some major justice on this same piece that features some clever timing.
“Sonnymoon,” written by Loeb shows the guitarist and James in another tranquil setting, deliberately leaning on every note with precision and poise.
The track dedicated to the Japanese tsunami victims starts out as a showcase of James’ mastery of the 88s then evolves into a full-blown nicely arranged six-minute straight-ahead number with Loeb’s sparkling runs, East’s walking the bass, and Mason’s classic and flawless handling of the timing. James’ daughter Hilary adds another dimension to this piece with her delightful vocals on the vocal version at the end of the album.
The title track is a smooth jazz mid-tempo jam that maintains the group’s tradition of including at least one such track.
A beautifully arranged album that is unmistakably all jazz in its finest form.
– Ronald Jackson