So do we have a new name yet for the erstwhile Yoshi’s in San Francisco? The reason I ask is that Fourplay is the Bay Area this week playing both Yoshi’s locations – that is, assuming the club in the City is still called Yoshi’s. It still appears to be, at least on the web. So it must be so.
More importantly, you can catch Fourplay at the East Bay venue Thursday and Friday before they head over the bridge for performances Saturday and Sunday.
The contemporary jazz supergroup – Bob James (keyboards), Nathan East (bass), Chuck Loeb (guitar) and Harvey Mason (drums) – come to Northern California after several dates in Japan. All four men, of course, have enjoyed varied and successful careers outside Fourplay, which means the band has plenty of material too choose from, which James and Loeb made clear in separate interviews with me a few years back.
Question: Individually and collectively, Fourplay has a lot of material to draw from. How did you go about choosing the set list for a tour?
James: We’ve talked a lot about how much fun it is to have a large “library” from past albums from which to pick tunes. It’s great to hear Chuck re-interpret the songs that we recorded with our previous guitarists.
Question: Given your myriad pursuits, why add Fourplay to your resume?
Loeb: The chance to play with what has been one of my favorite groups for more than 20 years, with three of the best musicians on the planet and a repertoire of fantastic songs for adoring fans at the best venues throughout the world was obviously a choice that I jumped at when I got the call. I should also mention that the honor of filling a guitar chair formerly held by two of my all-time favorites, Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton, made the opportunity that much more alluring.
Question: What is your take on the group’s stature in jazz, not just as a vehicle for some of its biggest names but as a veteran ensemble in and of itself?
Loeb: In terms of the stature of the group in jazz, Fourplay represents to me the perfect balance of sophisticated composition, improvisation and production; (the music) has depth while still achieving the seductive, sexy appeal that brings it to a very wide audience. Sometimes some music that is commercially successful can be construed as having a stigma attached to it, as though it can’t have musical depth and still be a hit. This band has always been proof to me that this does not have to be the case.
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