Heartfelt is a significant event for Fourplay fans, for the four play freer on this CD than ever before. And that’s by design. Fourplay has signed with Bluebird R…
is a significant event for Fourplay fans, for the four play freer on this CD than ever before. And that’s by design.
Fourplay has signed with Bluebird Records, a division of BMG’s RCA Victor Group, indicating a slight break from the past and a moving on from the group’s popular recordings with Warner Brothers. Formed only in 1991--for it seems that Fourplay has been playing quite a bit longer than that--this group of well-established, highly in-demand musicians has permeated the airwaves with its light and infectious approach to contemporary jazz. And the group, formed by happenstance and cemented by the sheer enjoyment of performing, has motivated a number of other groups to adopt a similar style, even though Fourplay’s style is inimitable.
That style seems to be simple enough. Bob James’s timbre, relatively narrow range and note choices on the electric keyboard follow an almost invariable pattern. Even today, they remain eerily reminiscent of his theme for Taxi,
no matter what the mood Fourplay sets--funk, gospel, romantic or whatever. One can rest assured, though, that the mood remains digestible and satisfying, appealing to a broad spectrum of listeners who can play heartfelt
music to read by, to wash dishes by, to do yoga exercises by, to make love by ("Let’s Make Love"), to watch the Kentucky Derby by ("Tally Ho"), to amend transgressions by ("Making Up"), or to reacquaint leisurely with one’s family by ("Goin’ Back Home").
Rather than playing through arrangements and being restricted to the opportunities presented by the music, the members of Fourplay seized upon the chance to take a different approach on its new label. Instead of playing from arrangements, as they had done on previous releases, Fourplay improvises upon the basic themes initially developed for each song. It becomes evident on Heartfelt
that Larry Carlton takes those ideas and runs the furthest with it. Some of the most distinctive soloing on Heartfelt
is Carlton’s--from his flamenco-like, mood-setting style on the title track to ringing of his strings on "Making Up," as he alternates from a quick Wes Montgomery octaved reference to a quicksilver slide between adjacent notes, like a steel guitar’s.
Even though the members of the quintet that is Fourplay (paying attention?) could pursue their own careers in studio work or backing up a wide range of musical talent--including jazz, pop, R&B or blues--the fact that they choose to play together signifies that they enjoy the concept. And the fact that Bluebird is allowing James/Carlton/East/Mason to exercise some freedom in the evolution of the group’s sound means that Fourplay will continue to appeal to its cadre of listeners with gradual change while retaining its readily identifiable sound.