If thirteen is lucky for some then all those who appreciate the enduring magic of the fabulous Fourplay will hit the jackpot with the band’s thirteenth CD, ‘Esprit De Four’ which will be released September 18 on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group. In keeping with what has gone before the essence of ‘Esprit De Four’ is in the way, both individually and collectively, the players expertly interpret their own immaculate compositions and with writing credits shared around between band members Chuck Loeb, Bob James, Nathan East, and Harvey Mason, the album feels very much like a delicious throwback to the nineties and the early days of Fourplay.
Indeed ‘Esprit De Four’ announces its sophisticated intent with the wonderfully melodic ‘December Dream’ that was written by Chuck Loeb who, despite being the bands most recent addition, captures to perfection that classic Fourplay sound. In fact Loeb writes three of the album’s ten tracks and although ‘Sonnymoon’ is jazzy, groove drenched and light as a feather, the ultra cool vibe of ‘Logic Of Love’ puts it right up there with the best that ‘Esprit De Four’ has to offer. The Harvey Mason penned ‘Venus’ also captures the band’s embracing charm and another tune with fabulously retro credentials is Nathan East’s bubbly ‘Firefly’ which was inspired by Swedish jazz trio Dirty Loops. When writing credits shift to Bob James he delivers ‘Sugoi’ (it means “nice, I like it”) which despite obvious Japanese influences is full of his own trademark grooves while elsewhere the Harvey Mason written title cut is a tasty, accessible number that is extremely easy on the ear.
A further highlight in a collection crammed full of them is Bob James’ sensitive ‘Put Our Hearts Together’ that he dedicates to the victims of the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. When, later, the band reprises the number, its Bob’s daughter Hilary who adds lyrics to her fathers rhythmic runs that are beautifully complemented by the poignant tones of Japanese vocalist Seiko Matsuda. However, all things considered, my own personal favorite is the smoothly jazzy ‘All I Wanna Do’ that was co-written by East who, in addition, does a fine job on vocals. Very much akin to being wrapped in a warm comforting blanket this is contemporary jazz at its soothing best.