Release Date:
September 23, 2008

Reviewed by:
Harvey Cline

The super-group Fourplay releases its first disc on the Heads Up label entitled Energy. The sound of these four musicians continues to evolve while many of the tunes still evoke the musical signatures of their respected authors. Keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East, guitarist Larry Carlton and drummer Harvey Mason add their own bits to this collective work to make their fans proud. 

"Fortune Teller" starts off mysterious and dark with an occasional guitar riff that launches into James and Carlton playing off each other. Carlton's lead gives way to Bob on piano only to come back once more. Mason leads the guys through this one with his steady over -constant snare. Although he co-wrote it, East's contributions basically are left in the background. This is the type of song that Fourplay has been so famous for. It's a really nice mix of all four artists with no true soloist. Harvey Mason's "The Whistler" moves along at a nice pace with a featured "whistle" via keyboards. Carlton has a lot of nice work here that doesn't come across too heavy, while James switches over to acoustic piano for his take. "Ultralight" is a Carlton-penned tune that comes across just that way. The tune is very upbeat and lively. Mason keeps it going at a good pace while featuring Carlton throughout. James keeps the light touch with some nice electric keys.

One of the nicest songs here is one from East. His family joins him on the vocals for a song that sings of "Cape Town." It’s light in the delivery and the vocals don't come across too strong. The mesmerizing beat features Nathan on some of the scat that he's so famous for. My favorite on Energy has to be "The Yes Club." You can hear the James influence right from the start with the syncopated chord progressions followed by Carlton's volley.  Mason's drums are ever so light which serve as a nice background for James’ keys and solo work. The repeating theme of the chorus has one of those hooks you just fall in love with right away. The syncopation is the rule rather than the exception here and makes you yearn for what's around the next corner. As like the opening number, this one features all four members in a delightful number. "Look Both Ways" is aptly titled because if you don't you're likely to be run over by either Bob or Harvey on this one. It starts off simple enough with some nice progressions from James as it begins to build momentum. Halfway through, Carlton's dark guitar underplays what's coming up. Both James and Mason take off into one of those fast- paced solos that you hear more so in straight-ahead jazz. It's rare to hear piano and drums so well, but they pull it off very well. East keeps the beat driving while the four of them find their way back to the riffs from the beginning that makes them play so well.  

The approach is a little more deliberate, the beat a little slower for the Mason-penned "Argentina." Featuring both James and Carlton, this moves along at a nice pace with good work by both. "Comfort Zone" is another Carlton tune that features the guitarist right from the beginning. His fans won’t be disappointed in this one as it highlights the sound he's so famous for. The ending alone was "worth the price of admission"! They finish off with a neat little number called "Sebastian." It’s a Bach-like piece written by Bob that features him on piano with Larry adding twinges of guitar and East with some backing vocals. James’ piano sounds a lot like the Bach pieces written so many years ago and puts a modern day spin on it.

If you're a Fourplay fan you won't be disappointed in this latest release. Anytime these four get together, it's shear magic. There is not a title track here, but you can look at the cover and see where they get the Energy. Maybe you need a little bit too.