After 13 albums scattered across 21 years, the men of Fourplay need no introduction but here they are nonetheless – Bob James (keyboards), Nathan East (bass), Chuck Loeb (guitar) and Harvey Mason (drums).
The group’s previous Heads Up release, “Let’s Touch the Sky” (2010), was fine but “Esprit de Four” is distinctly warmer and more appealing. The opener, “December Dream,” gets things started right by being both enchantingly ephemeral and rooted in rhythm. Loeb’s guitar work is exquisite here, as it is on the lovely, mellow title track.
Other highlights include instrumental and vocal takes on “Put Our Hearts Together.” James composed the song in reaction to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami; his daughter Hilary then wrote the inspirational lyrics. Those lines, in turn, so moved Japanese superstar Seiko Matsuda that she signed up to sing them.
By Brian McCoy