The cover of this latest disc from these “four” shows a water-colored painting of faceless figures, but open it up and you know right away… it’s James, Carlton, Mason and East. Just as the pastel colors mix them into one, the music they produce goes exactly the same way. These four do “play” and Journey is no exception.
They lead Journey off with a Sting cover song “Fields of Gold.” Larry Carlton shares the lead with Bob James as they trade verses, backed with additional vocals on the chorus from Nathan East. “Play Around It” is a little more up-tempo for this quartet as they get a little funky with East’s bass line and added vocals and scat. Carlton’s licks give a good contrast as the back beat remains constant, and Mason’s percussion moves the piece on for some time for James to “play around it.” “From Day One” is a Bob James tune that is tight and full of syncopation, with piano that reminds you of his Tappen Zee days. Carlton is added to the mix for solo work before handing off to the keyboards again. There’s a crescendo at the end that brings this one to an end… or is it over? You’ll have to listen to see.
The title track includes the vocals of East as he incorporates singing for the first time. His vocals remind me of Eric Clapton, and “Journey” is a song about having that special one along with them for the journey. “I’m here on this journey, and I don’t want to go it alone.” East adds in a little guitar from Carlton, but this one is mostly him. “Rozil” is a slower Mason tune with leads from Carlton intertwined with the guitar riffs of James we’ve come to know over the years. East scats along with his bass and Mason’s percussion as all four meet at the end.
“Cool Train” is a Carlton number that’s heavy on the finger snaps, as well as the layered building of James and his three counterparts. The club feel is accented with the solo of riffs of Carlton’s guitar, Mason’s brushes, and James’ piano. “Avalabop” is one of my favorites. It has that distinctive piano progression melody of James that makes you want to hum along to it each time they play it. Carlton adds some nice riffs for contrast. All along you get the feeling this is Bob’s tune and there’s a lot here to offer. Besides the haunting melody, his best solo on the entire disc can be heard here. East gets into the action with his scatting and bass as they all close with that melody you’ll be humming after you turn the player off.
“The Firehouse Chill” is a combination of all the artists that relies on the drums of Mason and intertwining of Carlton’s guitar and East’s vocals and bass. James is on electric keyboard this time out as the four play to a laid back rhythm. “Departure” begins as an airy ride and then is followed by James piano and Carlton’s beautiful acoustic. This one sounds a little bit different than most you’ve heard from the band. It becomes a “ride” between the bass and guitar until caught up in a crescendo with the piano, before coming back down to earth again. Journey finishes up with Carlton’s “147 4th St.” It’s heavy with his guitar work, and reminds me a lot of his earlier works before moving to Nashville several years ago. His other band mates join in and make this one a nice way to close the disc.
Overall, I think if you’ve enjoyed their previous seven discs, you’ll like this one too. These guys are hard to beat at their craft, and they’re four of the best in jazz. Put them all together and you have a magical “Journey.”