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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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FOURPLAY

Silver

Heads Up HUP 36688-02

 

 

1. Quicksilver

2. Horace

3. Sterling

4. A Silver Lining

5. Silverado

6. Mine

7. Silver Streak

8. Precious Metal

9. Aniversario

10 Windmill


Bob James – Piano, Rhodes, synthesisers

Nathan East – Bass, vocals

Chuck Loeb – Acoustic and electric guitars, synthesisers

Harvey Mason – Drums, percussion, vibes, synthesisers

Larry Carlton – Guitar (track 5)

Lee Ritenour – Guitars (track 10)

Kirk Whalum – Tenor sax (track 8)

Chris Wells – Background vocals (track 7)

John Beasley – Additional keyboards (track 10)

Mitch Forman – Organ (track 5)

Tom Keane – Synthesisers (track 9)


In previous reviews of albums by Fourplay, I have noted their resemblance to the Pat Metheny Quartet. I also suggested that Fourplay’s music is smooth, although it is not “smooth jazz”, that is jazz that contains no stimulating features. Certainly the music on this album is smooth and even sweet, thanks largely to Bob James’ floating keyboards, which swathe the music in a rich wash of sound. The overall sound is similar to that of the Metheny group, and Fourplay even use Metheny’s habit of adding wordless vocals to strengthen a melody.

Guitarist Chuck Loeb, who joined the band in 2010, is now firmly established, and his solos add a great deal to the effectiveness of every track. He alternates between mellow and flamboyant, with a technique that enables him to play both simply and with complexity. Nathan East’s bass guitar not only tethers the music to earth but he acts as a third soloing member of the group, reinforcing James and Loeb. Drummer Harvey Mason appears to do very little except supply a beat for a few tunes. But he also plays synthesisers and vibes, so he may be contributing to the opulence of the sound.

Jazz fans may be disconcerted by the thumping bass drum throughout the first track, Quicksilver. Yes, we are in jazz fusion territory but the subtlety of the playing should dispel any doubts among those to whom jazz fusion is an ugly phrase. This is certainly not disco but sophisticated music using many of the technical assets available. This track – and indeed every track – is primarily melodic, with melodies spinning profusely from the instruments. This tune was composed by Chuck Loeb. All the tracks were written by band members and their friends. This gives the music a certain unity as well as the variety resulting from the work of many brains.

Horace is a tribute to Horace Silver, and its style is similar to Silver’s funky jazz, although not so assertive. Harvey Mason’s A Silver Lining is beautifully pensive. Chuck Loeb co-wrote Silverado with Larry Carlton, his predecessor in the band, and it has a strong funky beat which proves that Fourplay are not always drifting in the clouds. Carlton guests on this track, and Mitch Forman at the organ adds extra clout. By contrast, Bob James’ Mine is typically measured and elegiac.

Silver Streak is a dynamic piece, fed with a multitude of different sounds and moods, which belies the idea that Fourplay may just be nothing but smooth. Tenorist Kirk Whalum guests on Precious Metal, a pleasantly drifting tune by Chuck Loeb. Nathan East’s Aniversario features his fleet fingers on the bass guitar.

Only one thing bothers me about this album. The press handout says that the CD was “recorded at Hollywood’s Sunset Sound” but it appears to have also been recorded at several other venues, with such credits as “Additional recording by Seth Presant at The Village Studios, Los Angeles” and “Additional drum recording by Simon Phillips at Phantom Recordings, Sherman Oaks, CA”. This suggests that the music may have been assembled like a jigsaw instead of being laid down at a single studio. Even if this is a commonplace about modern recording techniques, it reduces the integrity of the album. Still, however the recordings were made, this is a gorgeous album which, like some of its predecessors, I shall play repeatedly.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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