The first time the members of Times 4 got together to play, says keyboardist Greg Sankovich, “We just hit the zone and ran flying from the get-go.”
Fast-forwarding seven years, Sankovich, soprano and tenor saxophonist Lincoln Adler, bassist Kevin Lofton, and drummer Maurice Miles continue reigniting those spontaneous jazz-meets-funk sparks every time they perform. The distinctive Times 4 sound, which, in the words of eJazzNews reviewer Glenn Astarita, “skirts that fuzzy space between radio-friendly contempo jazz and ballsy, in-the-pocket groove-laden motifs,” has made the quartet a favorite at clubs and festivals throughout its home base in the San Francisco Bay Area and points beyond.
The backbeat-anchored edge that has marked Times 4’s music since its inception remains evident on Eclipse, the group’s third CD, yet the disc represents a step up in the group’s musical evolution with its more carefully crafted original tunes and the clarity of the recorded sound. Many of the compositional collaborations on the two earlier CDs - 2004’s Seductivity and 2007’s Relations - were outgrowths of open-ended jams created on the bandstand. For Eclipse, the four musicians took their time coming up disc’s five collective compositions: the sultry “Crossroads,” the swing-overlaid “Did I Say that Out Loud?”, the funky, feel-good “FSJ,” the bass-and-drums- driven “Sine Language,” and the title track, which drummer Miles describes as being like “an emotional journey.” The haunting ballad “What They Don’t Tell You” was penned by Adler alone.
“Eclipse,” the saxophonist says, “is much more about the band’s refinement and coming into its own as a performing entity. After seven years of playing together, the communication between the members has become much stronger. There is a real unity in the way we support each other in both solos and ensemble playing.”
The CD also includes, for the first time on disc, the group playing non- original numbers. Both are jazz classics: “Eighty One,” written by Ron Carter and Miles Davis, and John Coltrane's “Naima.” “We just did them Times 4’s way,” says Miles.
The eight selections on the CD also benefit from the sonic excellence of having been recorded at the legendary Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. Besides allowing for better sound separation between the instruments, the facility afforded Sankovich the opportunity to utilize several of its vintage, well-maintained keyboard instruments: a Hammond B-3 organ, a Fender-Rhodes electric piano, and an acoustic grand piano that had once been played by the great Bill Evans. “I kissed it first,” Sankovich quips about playing the grand.