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Times 4 : Relations

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San Francisco-based quartet Times 4 points out what a musical melting pot modern jazz has become with its sophomore release, Relations. Essentially a funk act based on the rhythms of bassist Kevin Lofton and drummer Maurice Miles (bandmates since high school), the group also enters contemporary jazz, Latin music, hip-hop and soul territory through the playing of saxophonist Lincoln Adler and keyboardist Greg Sankovich (also friends since their teens).

The disc’s best tracks are the most funk-based, even ones in a 5/4 meter like the Miles-driven opener “M.O.” “Hericane” also features a rhythmic mix of jazz and funk by shifting between odd and even time signatures. The versatile Lofton proves capable of navigating both Marcus Miller-like slapped bass lines (“Thickness”) and Jaco Pastorius-inspired harmonics (“Enterlude”), and Sankovich’s Fender Rhodes makes “Cell Phone” approximate Steely Dan without Donald Fagen’s vocals.

“Mojito,” “Full Moon,” the title track and “Central Park,” the disc’s smoothest pieces, are based on melodies played by Adler. The saxophonist studied with Joe Henderson and played in jazz ensembles with Sankovich while both attended the University of Calif., Berkeley. Yet Adler has also worked in TV and film, both often breeding grounds for smoothness. The addition of the saxophone, in the minds of most, transforms any genre of music into jazz, even if other elements are more prevalent. Like Soulive, Times 4 only gets classified as a jazz act by default. “Instrumental funk” would be a more appropriate subgenre.