Fourplay has always been misunderstood by many jazz critics, who misinterpret the band's easygoing groove as background music. But while Fourplay has always remained true to its namewith seductive rhythms to get you in the moodon its new CD, its seventh in thirteen years, more than ever the band combines those seductive sounds with some real playing that fans can feast on. It's no surprise that Fourplay puts the talents of its leaders out front, since the band boasts the talents of superstars Larry Carlton on guitar, Bob James on piano, Nathan East on bass and Harvey Mason on drums.
Journey includes nine original songs and one cover, Sting's "Fields of Gold," which opens the CD and substitutes Carlton's acoustic guitar for Sting's vocals. Carlton gets a workout over ayesseductive backdrop. Journey is Fourplay's "jazziest" CD to date, and this is reflected in songs such as "147 4th St." and "Departure," both of which showcase James' jazz piano playing and the improvisational nature of the recording. It's all done in Fourplay style, however, so longtime fans will no doubt embrace the jazzy turn of events.
There are some classic Fourplay moments: "Rozil" is a quiet number with vocalese; "Cool Train" throws out a shuffle beat and a bass lead by East; and "From Day One" has a surprising twist about three-quarters of the way through; just when you think it's over, the band comes back for about two more minutes in a new musical direction. And East lends his vocal talents to "Play Around It" and the title track, "Journey," which also features Bikki Johnson on background vocals and shaker.
Not as consistently good as other Fourplay efforts, but this one is a Journey worth taking.
Personnel: Bob James, piano; Larry Carlton, guitar; Nathan East, bass and vocals; Harvey Mason, drums; Bikki Johnson, background vocals and shaker; Cody "Peyote" Cassiero, DJ;