In general terms, an anniversary like 25 years, is a good occasion to assess where the band came from, where it’s at now, where it’s going in the future, and all the roads joining those three musical locations.
With this album we took the opportunity to share these in a musically with all the wonderful friends & fans that we have throughout the world. It’s inspiring to know that they’ve been on the same journey along with us.
As the newest member of the band (it’s my fifth year anniversary), I am able to understand why these particularly unique group of musicians have enjoyed such longevity, both from a distance as a fan, and as a member. When a sports team wins a championship, or has enduring success, people always talk of the ‘chemistry’ amongst the players. This is very much the same in music. Nathan, Bob, Harvey, and Lee had an immediate musical DNA, which evolved with Larry, and then with myself. It always amazes me when I bring in a song for the band to try, because as soon as we play it as a group, it takes on that unique ‘Fourplay sound’.
There’s also a shared mutual respect, and a very high level of fun when we get together to make music. This shows in the end result. It is hard for a member of the band to try to objectively assess the impact Fourplay might have on the history of jazz. However, in looking at it from the perspective I had as an early listener & fan, I would say that this group weaves sophistication, subtle complexity, and an impressive wealth of musical experience into a very popular musical format, as a true fusion of four musical perspectives.
Harvey is a conservatory trained classical percussionist and composer. His earliest musical experiences took place in the buzzing hub of straight ahead jazz and early R&B in the Atlantic City/Philadelphia area where he grew up, playing with jazz legends each weekend, and later, after hours in Boston during his studies there. This eclectic background is immediately evident in Harvey’s drum parts and songs, combining the subtle and delicate touch of an orchestral percussionist, with the groove and swing that had made him such an integral part of a very long list of hit records.
Nathan is one of the most natural, gifted, and ‘organic’ musicians I have played with. But if I had to think of a a single adjective for Nate, it would be ‘intuitive’. Whether on stage or in the studio, there is an uncanny instant understanding and support coming from the bass, almost as though he knows where the soloist and the band are going. He lays down just the right notes and feel you want to hear, with a sound as big as a house. Like Harvey, there’s no surprise in the fact that artists and producers like Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton, Quincy Jones & David Foster look to Nate to bring that magic on stage, and in the studio. And of course Nate also brings that integral element of soulful and heartfelt vocals that are such an important part of Fourplay’s sound.
What can I say about Bob James that hasn’t been said? From a purely personal standpoint, Bob James has been an inspiration for me for a long time. He is one of what I would call “renaissance musicians”, meaning that he is able to excel in almost every area of music (he’s not my favorite vocalist;-). Improvising, interpreting, composing, accompaniment, arranging, and producing, he even spent time as a record company executive. On top of that he is one of the most generous musicians I’ve worked with, always willing to help find the best possible interpretation of the music that we bring in, and very giving of his ideas and input.
There are many reasons why working with these three great musicians is so fulfilling. From amazing musicianship and having three incredible producers at your disposal, to collaborating in a truly democratic musical environment where everyone’s input is welcome, the bar is set at the highest production values. Oh, and most of all, it’s just so much fun! From day one they consistently urged me to be my musical self, and not try to fill anyone’s expected role.
The central idea behind SILVER was to create a new set of songs and performances based on the history and trajectory of the band since its start, with the emphasis on taking the purest elements of the bands discography: great tunes, performances, pristine production, and that Fourplay vibe – romantic, elegant and a deep groove. The other aspect is that we returned to the studio where the very first tracks were cut 25 years ago, Sunset Sound in Hollywood, and combined the engineering forces of Don Murray, who recorded and mixed the very first CD and Ken Freeman who has done many of Fourplay’s recent albums.
It’s not a retrospective, but again, a look at where we came from and where we are going as a band. I think the music speaks for itself, and the musical journey of Fourplay.
Silver set for release November 20, 2015
Longevity among jazz groups is a surprisingly rare commodity. With relatively few exceptions, a run of a few years, at most, is standard; for a collective of jazz musicians to stick together for a decade or more is almost unheard of. That puts Fourplay, who celebrates their 25th anniversary this year, in a league of their own. Since 1990, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Bob James, guitarist Chuck Loeb (who joined five years ago) and drummer Harvey Mason have continued to explore together, their efforts resulting in what All Music Guide called one of “the most intuitive, forward-thinking and focused groups in modern jazz.”
On Silver, set for release November 20, 2015 on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, Fourplay celebrates that unprecedented bond with their most wide-ranging and gratifying recording to date. Following the theme of the occasion, most of the 10 new original compositions comprising Silver play off of the anniversary, bearing titles such as “Sterling,” “Precious Metal” and “A Silver Lining.” Just like its namesake, Silver shines, each track a brilliant example of what has made this formidable ensemble—each of whom also has a highly successful career outside of the band—one of the most respected in the jazz world.
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Bob James, a stylistically broad keyboardist and composer who helped lay the groundwork for smooth jazz, teamed up with a regular partner, the bassist Nathan East, for “The New Cool,” a duo album coming in the fall. For this week long run, Mr. James leads a touring band with Perry Hughes on guitar, Carlitos del Puerto on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums.
8:00 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.
131 West Third Street
The recording, recorded in Nashville, was made using Yamaha gear exclusively. Produced by Chris Gero, the album consists of all-new original material and a few covers, including a version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” sung by country star Vince Gill. East and James, along with drummer Harvey Mason and guitarist Chuck Loeb, will also release a new Fourplay album later this year.
Piano and bass. Bob James and Nathan East. Fusion jazz with soft character? Of course we are aware of the flexibility of the two warriors-the bassist participated in Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” that garnered attention – but both gentlemen met and stepped into the studio to record a series of duo jazz adventures was not expected. And they adorned some of their music with the lavish soundscapes of Nashville Recording Orchestra in generous manner or invited other guests in the inner circle studio. “The New Cool” promises a lot – from September we will know more.
I forgot for a minute that Yamaha manufactures a lot of gear so I was a little dumbfounded for a minute about why these two long time pros were recording for a new, off beat label. Duh. In today’s world this makes perfect sense. What better way to have Yamaha show off all kinds of their recording and playing gear by putting it in the hands of these two pros and telling them ‘do whatever the hell you want’. Let’s just say James and East wouldn’t get this kind of love at Sony, WB, E One or any of the other usual haunts for their solo or Fourplay projects these days—all the way down to Bernie Grundman doing the mastering. Jazz with no walls or eyes on the clock is what these rascals serve up as they corral Vince Gill, the Nashville Recording Orchestra and more as they let 25 years of playing together show off the telepathy and simpatico they have evolved along the way. Real music for real listeners, slip on the headphones, block out the noise and let the magic have it’s way. Well done.