Fourplay debuted 15 years ago with the recognizable tones of Bob James’ keyboard on “Bali Run.” During the ensuing years, the band has reliably offered a smooth and sexy sound that allowed them to act like playboys before getting back to their jazz-fusion solo efforts. The supergroup has just released its 10th CD, and while James, guitarist Larry Carlton, bassist Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason again lay down the sexy vibe, they also—as always—sneak in many wonderful moments of true jazz soloing.
The title of the CD is X, but that doesn’t mean you pronounce it like the number “10.” Instead, Fourplay wants you to imagine an unknown quantity, perhaps with a modicum of X-rated, sensual thoughts added. Each member wrote two songs, and blue-eyed soul singer Michael McDonald returns the favor for the band performing on his first Motown CD by singing Steve Winwood’s “My Love’s Leavin’.” James creatively fuses smooth touches with harder fusion edges on “Turnabout” and Carlton sprinkles in some guitar jamming on the tasty “Cinnamon Sugar,” but it’s East and Mason who prove they aren’t simply there to hold down the bottom end. East’s “Eastern Sky” is Metheny-esque in scope with its exquisite vocalese, while Mason’s “Kid Zero” is an instant Fourplay classic and catchy as hell. A surprise treat comes on Carlton’s “Be My Lover,” where his wife and vocalist Michele Pillar adds sweet vocal refrains.
For longtime fans or new ones, it all adds up to yet another session of breathless Fourplay.