For over 25 years the legend of Fourplay has grown. Exploring the limitless possibilities of jazz has allowed the quartet to evolve musically, drawing musical elements from a wide range of styles, to hone their own unique and innovative sound.
The story begins in 1990, with keyboardist Bob James, who had already established himself as a formidable figure in jazz, known not just as an instrumentalist, also but as a composer and arranger, with a solo career dating back to the mid-1960s.
It was in 1990, when James decided to reunite with Harvey Mason during the recording of James’ album Grand Piano Canyon. Mason, one of the most highly sought after drummers of all time (Herbie Hancock, Barbra Steisand, Notorious B.I.G.), was also well known as a composer and producer. This project also included Lee Ritenour, and bassist Nathan East (Barry White, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Daft Punk). This recording marked the genesis of the group known as Fourplay.
The original lineup of James, Mason, East, and Ritenour released their self-titled debut in 1991, and stayed together for three successive albums, including Elixir in 1994. Elixir features vocalists such as Phil Collins, Patti Austin and Peabo Bryson, along with East, who has continued to contribute vocals throughout the course of the group’s history.
For the release of album 4 in 1998, Fourplay brought in Larry Carlton (The Crusaders, Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones) to replace Ritenour, who left the group to pursue other projects. Album 4 included compositions by all four members, and featured an impressive crew of guest vocalists, including El Debarge, Babyface Edmonds, Kevyn Lettau and Shanice.
Carlton stayed with the group for 12 years, before delving into his own solo career. During that time, the group continued its creative evolution, with releases such as 1999’s, Yes Please!, and album which challenged the standard definitions of contemporary jazz by incorporating elements of blues, funk and Celtic.
Improvisation reigned supreme in 2002 with Heartfelt, born from a series of improvisational performances developed into full compositions with less clearly defined melodies. After releasing Journey in 2004, Fourplay released X in 2006, which featured vocals by the iconic Michael McDonald.
2008 brought the release of Energy, which spent three consecutive weeks at the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart. The album weaves a variety of genres into a tapestry of Fourplay’s signature jazz foundations, and features vocals Esperanza Spalding.
In 2010, virtuoso guitarist Chuck Loeb joined Fourplay on Let’s Touch the Sky, which features vocals by Anita Baker and Ruben Studdard. 2012 brought Esprit De Four, which is highlighted by “Put Our Hearts Together”. The song is a tribute to raise awareness and relief efforts in Japan after the disasters of 2011, and featured vocals by Seiko Matsuda.
The latest release, Silver, celebrates the legendary group’s 25th anniversary of creating innovative and uncompromising music together.