Energy: a word that means power or force. It's appropriate that Energy is also the title of Fourplay's debut with Heads Up.
Fourplay, a double entendre, is the quartet of Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason and Larry Carlton. Each, an individual band leader or session sideman in his own right, the four spend part of their time as a supergroup. Collectively, they've appeared on numerous recordings and gained widespread appeal. Among their associations are Tom Scott & The L.A. Express, Crusaders, Steely Dan, Mike Post, David Sanborn, Marcus Miller, Kirk Whalum, Maynard Ferguson and George Duke. The band mixes contemporary jazz with a variety of other styles, including blues, R&B, and African music.
"Fortune Teller" is a lively piece that showcases Fourplay's cohesion as a group, while also displaying individuality, with solos by James on piano and Carlton on guitar. East on bass and Mason on drums work skillfully in the background.
East brings in several members of his family for "Cape Town," a vocal tribute to his grandparents, who did missionary work in South Africa. The song was co-written by East, his brother, Marcel East, and cousin, Alan Dones. Marcel also provides additional instruments. Three other members of the family provide background vocals. New sensation, singer Esperanza Spalding, complements the band nicely on the Hilary James composition, "Prelude for Lovers."
The ethereal "Look Both Ways," features Carlton's guitar much of the way. During the middle solo, James, East and Mason lay down a subtle, but effective background while Carlton shows why he's one of the most highly regarded guitarists. The song shifts gears near the end, as James' piano takes off on a high-energy solo, punctuated by East's rapid-fire bass line and Mason's adept handling of the snare, toms and cymbals. The pace returns to normal for the satisfying conclusion.
Fourplay makes a strong Heads Up debut with Energy.
Fortune Teller; The Whistler; Ultralight; Cape Town; The Yes Club; Prelude for Lovers; Look Both Ways; Argentina; Comfort Zone; Sebastian.