A. Scott Galloway Joint Reviews New Fourplay & Bob James/Nathan East Duo Discs

Bob James 2015: Available in Twoplay and Fourplay Models

Record Reflections by A. Scott Galloway

25 years ago, a super group of contemporary jazz giants formed a quartet dubbed Fourplay and began the business of making evocative groove-scapes spiced with a tasty dollop of sensuality via soul-pop vocal stars and sexy covers of touchstones by boudoir masters Marvin Gaye and The Isley Brothers. Since that time, they’ve pretty much ditched the vocals and gone deeper into what I call movies for the ears. Fourplay’s new 10-song CD, Silver (Concord Records) – recorded at Sunset Sound Studio in Hollywood where they cut their self titled debut in 1990 for Warner Bros. – marks the band’s 25th anniversary and is, fittingly, one of its finest most consistent CDs in some time.


Aside from said aural movie wonders, I find the highlights of this album (with all songs referencing silver in some constitution) are the slinky “Horace” (pianist Bob James’ homage to jazz legend Horace Silver, the great pianist and prolific “soul-jazz” composer who passed away in June 2014), the acoustic brushed elegance of drummer Harvey Mason’s “A Silver Lining,” guitarist Chuck Loeb’s “Precious Metal” – the most sensual and romantic of the songs featuring special guest Kirk Whalum – and bassist Nathan East’s “Aniversario,” a tasty slice of funk. Extra special are the returns of Fourplay’s previous guitarists: original member Lee Ritenour (who contributes the rich harmonically layered CD-closer “Windmill,” co-composed with old west coast studio friend “The Mase”) and Rit’s replacement Larry Carlton who joyfully teams with Loeb on the bluesy groove “Silverado” which feels like an Eddie Harris line buffed to signature Fourplay polish.

Bob James sums up that Fourplay signature as, “‘The Democracy’: the strong desire to have all of us represented equally.”

Bob James Nathan East-The New Cool

A very different kind of democracy inhabits another project that ubiquitous “BJ” undertook with bassist Nathan East titled The New Cool (Yamaha Entertainment Group). Ringing with the classically tinged dignity of Dave Brubeck or the John Lewis-led Modern Jazz Quartet, the project finds Bob & Nathan working primarily as a duo with some exceptions. Highlights are the opening title track, the swingin’ “Oliver’s Bag,” East’s sophisticated vocalese feature “All Will Be Revealed” (beautifully shaded by string quartet), and the Willie Nelson gem “Crazy” sung by special guest Vince Gill in an arrangement that sways between lush romance and old time jazz stride. Nice as all of this music is, it does get a bit sleepy in the second half. But the duo saves a jolt of energy for the Gil Evans-inspired all-stops-out finish, “Turbulence,” featuring a powerful rumored one-take performance from drummer Scott Williamson and a fully engaged Nashville Recording Orchestra.

Taken together, Fourplay’s Silver and Bob James & Nathan East’s The New Cool find Mr. James and friends proudly upholding tradition with as much muster-able invention after composing and arranging for 50 high watermark years.

A. Scott Galloway
Music Editor
The Urban Music Scene

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