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Fourplay: Yes, Please!

Many so-called “supergroup” projects succeed only in draining away the collaborators’ unique styles in favor of a sanitized and perhaps more commercial sound. After several projects, the occasional collaborators known as Fourplay (Bob James, Nathan East, Larry Carlton and Harvey Mason) break free with Yes, Please!, an expansive album that incorporates each artist’s strengths, and in the process travels in some unexpected directions. Where album-opener “Free Range” offers a midtempo fusion highlighted by James’ lovely, fluid piano runs and Carlton’s stinging guitar solo, “Once Upon a Love” is warm and romantic, with a dreamy, cascading keyboard melody that gives way to a blues-touched, sweet guitar melody. Some of the quartet’s more adventurous work is heard on “Fortress,” an expertly executed mood painting lent a mythic quality by distant drums and lightly stated Celtic elements-but the band also cuts loose on frisky tracks like “Lucky,” and especially “Blues Force,” which showcases each member in a laid-back, bass-pumping skill session. Yes, Please! works where other similar projects fail simply because it lets its artists play, without imposing artificial boundaries.

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