Fourplay – Heartfelt
(BMG/Bluebird/RCA – 2002)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
The Real Fourplay is finally back. After coming on the scene in ’91 and garnering three consecutive gold records with their first three CD’s, Fourplay has been on a slow-but-steady seven-year skid. Each release after the third was technically good, and maintained the individual standard of talent the performers are known for, but the originality waned, the vivacity fell to the wayside and the releases became rehashes. The jazz world slowly began to creep ahead, leaving the smooth-jazz pioneers behind. Now they have a new record company, a new way of recording, a new attitude and a new CD that’s back up in the neighborhood of those first three or four releases. “Cafe L’Amour” features some nice guitar and bass work by Larry Carlton and Nathan East, as does the stately “Rollin'”. Actually “Rollin'” slips away from that ‘smooth’ jazz label a bit, leaning more into the mainstream channel.
Let’s Make Love is my favorite tune, it has a nice interplay beween the vocals and Bob James’ keyboards. Goin’ Back Home again makes use of a nice vocal hook to accent the melody, Larry Carlton really gets into it hot and heavy here. The title track, Heartfelt is slow and rather pretty, but seems a little out of place on this disc… too mellow, this should have been on Bob’s CD, not this one. On the whole, this CD has a more cohesive feel than any of the more recent Fourplay CD’s, and again brings them into the ranks of the creative musicians and out of the rows and rows of posers they had fallen into.