Four80East a "group name" for the duo of Rob DeBoer and Tony Grace, who composed, mixed, and produced the CD and played the majority of the instruments; an occasional trumpet, tenor sax, or flute makes a cameo appearance. So predictably, it's a highly programmed affair, but as such it's a very likable effort. There's a lot more sonic variety and creativity than you hear in most smooth jazz efforts, which are calculated to soothe and sound familiar rather than challenge. The sticker on the CD box calls it "electro-groove-jazz," and that's a pretty good assessment. "Techno-smooth" might work as well. The title is apropos, too; this is definitely after-dark music, often with dusky, shadowy, yet rhythmic backgrounds and seductively musing melodies and solos. It's mellow in places, but never a sleeper. On many tunes, a Fender Rhodes piano provides an earthy warmth to compliment the programmed elements. "Wake and Bake" features echoed, fluttering flute and muted trumpet providing ornamentations over a slinky, seductive rhythm. Sometimes it gets downright funky, as on "Sweet Tooth," with its popping bass and Michael Brecker-influenced electric tenor sax through a wah-wah pedal. Tony Grace does some interesting things by spreading percussion (real and programmed) across the stereo spectrum.
Certainly, jazz purists won't like this one, although there is some capable improvization. But if you enjoy an occasional one- or two-person band CD, I can recommend this one. It's anything but cliche. (Higher Octave Jazz HOJCD 50588)
Personnel: Rob DeBoer - keyboards, bass, guitar, programming; Tony Grace - percussion and programming; Ivana Santilli - trumpet; Jon Stewart - tenor sax; Andrew McPherson - flute.