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Four80East: En Route

Someone forgot to tell Four80East that the chill-music love-feast is over in the U.S. Thank God, because the band’s first CD in four years is state-of-the-art instrumental music that’s intelligent, sophisticated and stuffed with surprises-and suitably chillish. Just the thing that might tempt smooth-jazz radio to once again put the producer-based, European-flavored music with bass-heavy grooves back into its mix.

Four80East is led by Toronto-based musicians Rob DeBoer (piano, guitar, bass, programming) and Tony Grace (drums, programming), who 10 years ago introduced their addictive sound to smooth jazz audiences through the hit single “Eastside.” That CD, The Album, and their third, Round 3, were high-energy outputs while their second, Nocturnal, was dreamily downtempo in spirit. En Route combines the best of the three and adds a touch of jazz and cinematic sweep. The result is thrilling.

If you only listen to one song on En Route (by using the download option), make sure it’s “51 Division,” as it encompasses the group ideal with its thick bass, crackling synth loop and Jon Stewart’s very jazzy sax. But don’t stop there. “Noodle Soup,” the first single, co-ops an “Eastside”-like disco bass and jumps off into flute, guitar and piano solos. “The Drop” sounds like it’s coming from a slasher movie and offers some crunchy guitar lines. “Double Down” is the jazziest track here, with its easy, shuffling drum patterns and its guitar-and-sax tradeoffs. Contemporary jazz excursions are also paraded about with DeBoer’s funky, Jeff Lorber-like keys on “Been Too Long” and the rapid guitar fretwork of the title track. The very smooth “Waterline” closes the CD with pretty acoustic piano and guitar playing.

Stimulating and progressive, En Route is the kind of CD you must play very loud.

Originally Published