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Fourplay

For over 25 years the legend of Fourplay has grown.  Exploring the limitless possibilities of jazz has allowed the quartet to evolve musically, drawing musical elements from a wide range of styles, to hone their own unique and innovative sound.

The story begins in 1990, with keyboardist Bob James, who had already established himself as a formidable figure in jazz, known not just as an instrumentalist, also but as a composer and arranger, with a solo career dating back to the mid-1960s.

It was in 1990, when James decided to reunite with Harvey Mason during the recording of James’ album Grand Piano Canyon.  Mason, one of the most highly sought after drummers of all time (Herbie Hancock, Barbra Steisand, Notorious B.I.G.), was also well known as a composer and producer.  This project also included Lee Ritenour, and bassist Nathan East (Barry White, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Daft Punk).  This recording marked the genesis of the group known as Fourplay.

The original lineup of James, Mason, East, and Ritenour released their self-titled debut in 1991, and stayed together for three successive albums, including Elixir in 1994.  Elixir features vocalists such as Phil Collins, Patti Austin and Peabo Bryson, along with East, who has continued to contribute vocals throughout the course of the group’s history.

For the release of album in 1998, Fourplay brought in Larry Carlton (The Crusaders, Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones) to replace Ritenour, who left the group to pursue other projects.  Album 4included compositions by all four members, and featured an impressive crew of guest vocalists, including El Debarge, Babyface Edmonds, Kevyn Lettau and Shanice.

Carlton stayed with the group for 12 years, before delving into his own solo career.  During that time, the group continued its creative evolution, with releases such as 1999’s, Yes Please!, and album which challenged the standard definitions of contemporary jazz by incorporating elements of blues, funk and Celtic.

Improvisation reigned supreme in 2002 with Heartfelt, born from a series of improvisational performances developed into full compositions with less clearly defined melodies.  After releasing Journey in 2004, Fourplay released X in 2006, which featured vocals by the iconic Michael McDonald.

2008 brought the release of Energy, which spent three consecutive weeks at the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart.  The album weaves a variety of genres into a tapestry of Fourplay’s signature jazz foundations, and features vocals Esperanza Spalding.

In 2010, virtuoso guitarist Chuck Loeb joined Fourplay on Let’s Touch the Sky, which features vocals by Anita Baker and Ruben Studdard.  2012 brought Esprit De Four, which is highlighted by “Put Our Hearts Together”.  The song is a tribute to raise awareness and relief efforts in Japan after the disasters of 2011, and featured vocals by Seiko Matsuda.

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8
Album Review

Fourplay: Silver

Read "Silver" reviewed by Jeff Winbush


Any band in any genre of music, be it rock, country, classical or jazz can't make it two and a half decades based solely on pure dumb luck. Fourplay defied the critics who dismissed them as pop schlock when they debuted in 1991 and shook off the haters who never thought they would still be here 25 years later. The secret for the quartet's staying power is right there in the name: Fourplay. Four talented, versatile and experienced master musicians ...

3
Extended Analysis

Fourplay: Esprit De Four

Read "Fourplay: Esprit De Four" reviewed by Jeff Winbush


FourplayEsprit De FourHeads Up International2012Bands don't last over two decades with minimal turnover in personnel and continued success if they're composed of egotists, prima donnas, drama queens or people that just don't play nice together. Fourplay has endured and thrived because it is an egalitarian coalition of seasoned professionals who set aside private agendas to serve the group dynamic.When a new guitarist joins Fourplay it typically takes their sophomore recording ...

364
Album Review

Fourplay: Let's Touch the Sky

Read "Let's Touch the Sky" reviewed by Jeff Winbush


For Fourplay, it's all a numbers game. 2011 marks the band's 20th anniversary, Let's Touch the Sky is their 12th album, and “new guy," Chuck Loeb is both Fourplay's third personnel change and third guitarist replacing Larry Carlton, who stepped in for Lee Ritenour in 1998.Personnel changes in long-established bands happen when a disgruntled member bolts over the dreaded “creative differences" or out of necessity, as when Carlton decided to return to his solo career. When it was ...

403
Album Review

Fourplay: Energy

Read "Energy" reviewed by Douglas Payne


Fourplay is as much a conundrum as a contrivance. Their punning name suggests sexy jazz--and both levels are sometimes achieved--but if this collective's aim of producing what is, after all, supposed to be “pretty music" meets its goal, it may sell millions but it rarely rises above agreeable (for those paying attention) or merely listenable (for those doing other things).

Energy, the foursome's eleventh release and seventh with Larry Carlton in place of original guitarist Lee Ritenour, continues ...

442
Album Review

Fourplay: Energy

Read "Energy" reviewed by Woodrow Wilkins


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 ...

374
Album Review

Fourplay: Journey

Read "Journey" reviewed by Brian Soergel


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 name--with seductive rhythms to get you in the mood--on 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 ...

255
Album Review

Fourplay: Yes, Please!

Read "Yes, Please!" reviewed by Dave Hughes


There's no doubt that Fourplay is, collectively, one of the most talent-laden ensembles in contemporary jazz today. But their output to date, while always accessible to the masses, has alternated between interesting, worthwhile comtempo fare (their eponymous debut CD and their third release, Elixir ) and more watered-down, commercially-oriented “smooth jazz" ( Between the Sheets and 4 ). On their latest CD Yes, Please! , we get some of each. The disc gets off to a promising start with “Free ...

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1

Education

Fourplay Guitarist Chuck Loeb Offers Personalized Online Lessons At The ArtistWorks Jazz Guitar School

Fourplay Guitarist Chuck Loeb Offers Personalized Online Lessons At The ArtistWorks Jazz Guitar School

Source: Peter Giles

NAPA, CA –Grammy Award nominated jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb is the latest marquee artist to bring his teaching mastery to ArtistWorks.com, a first-of-its-kind online music and art campus that provides members with personalized interaction with acclaimed musicians and artists. Tens of thousands of members in nearly 100 countries have improved their playing within ArtistWorks’ unique online learning communities, which combine unlimited access to hundreds of pre-recorded lessons with the ability to get video feedback from world renowned teachers. There are ...

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Performance / Tour

Precision High Jinks from a Veteran Jazz Quartet

Precision High Jinks from a Veteran Jazz Quartet

Source: Michael Ricci

During the final moments of their early set at the Blue Note on Monday night, the members of Fourplay engaged in a bit of musical horseplay.

First Bob James, the keyboardist, tossed off a pithy phrase. Nathan East, the bassist, picked it up, followed in turn by the guitarist Larry Carlton and the drummer Harvey Mason. The cycle repeated and quickened until the band was frantically circulating just one note, like a hot potato.

It was cute. But then cuteness ...

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Music Industry

RCA Victor Group Signs Instrumental Supergroup Fourplay

RCA Victor Group Signs Instrumental Supergroup Fourplay

Source: All About Jazz

Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason & Larry Carlton to Release New Album, Summer 2002

BMG's adult music division, The RCA Victor Group, has signed the contemporary instrumental supergroup Fourplay to the Bluebird label. Fourplay-Bob James (keyboards), Nathan East (bass), Harvey Mason (drums) and Larry Carlton (guitar)-are currently recording a new album to be released in summer 2002 and followed by a world tour.

Together and individually, Fourplay have been at the top of the pop, rock and jazz charts ...

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Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Silver

Heads Up International
2015

buy

Fourplay: Esprit De...

Heads Up International
2012

buy

Let's Touch the Sky

Heads Up International
2010

buy

Energy

Heads Up International
2008

buy

Journey

Bluebird
2004

buy

7 Albums / MP3 CD

Unknown label
2002

buy

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