Fourplay Still Has All That Jazz at Playboy Jazz Festival

Fourplay's Nathan East does his thing at the 33rd Playboy Jazz Festival./Photo Credit: Mario/

By Dennis J. Freeman

Each of the four members of Fourplay described their music at the 33rd Playboy Jazz Festival along the lines of being romantic, mature, flowing and Democratic. In the 21 years that Fourplay has been together, their sound can be very much summed up in those profound words.

 Hearing a Fourplay song has all the elements of romance and certain maturity that flows with an open invitation for the listener to join in on the fun.

The audience at the famed Hollywood Bowl attending the Playboy Jazz Festival enjoyed their invitation as Fourplay delivered its signature coolness and vibe on the stage, playing some of their earlier recordings as well as mixing in the some of their latest material.

The four-member band, originally formed when pianist Bob James, guitarist Lee Ritenour, bass player Nathan East and drummer Harvey Mason formally agreed to synchronize their individual talents together on the self-titled album Fourplay, has mastered the art of longevity and success.

With 11 albums and multiple Grammy nods under their belt, it’s safe to say that Fourplay can easily be seen as the standard for all contemporary jazz groups to measure up to. Known for their seductive music and including top recording artists such as El DeBarge, Patti Austin, Peabo Bryson and Ruben Studdard on some of their well-known hits, Fourplay has been able to blend traditional and classic jazz with the modern flavor.

Pianist Bob James leads Fourplay on the stage at the 33rd Playboy Jazz Festival./Photo Credit: Mario/

Members of Fourplay, which now includes guitarist Chuck Loeb, who is now the fourth member of the band, says the group has been able to stick around so long with the success its had because of their strong bond and having a high platform to measure up to, says East.

“Friendship and a having a high standard,” East said.

“Loeb, who joined Fourplay in 2010, said he was a big admirer of the group before becoming an official member. Loeb said his desire as a musician is to help keep the high standard of music that Fourplay has produced in the past.

“It’s a Democratic band, and everyone wants to keep the level as prestine and as high as we can,” Loeb said. “I come in as a fan. I’ve been listening to the band for twenty years, and I just joined last year. I can say that when you hear Fourplay, when it really comes together, it has its own unique sound.”

James, perhaps the best commercially known of the stellar quartet of musicians, is the eldest statesman of the group.

 “I am the longevity,” James jokingly quipped. “I am the essence of longevity. I am the only member of Fourplay, old, medium or young, who has never missed a gig. I hope to keep going with that. If I symbolically represent that, maybe that is longevity.”

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