After 17 years and 11 albums, Fourplay remains “a total joy” for the four all-stars in the band — keyboardist Bob James, bassist-vocalist Nathan East, guitarist Larry Carlton and drummer Harvey Mason. But the demands of their individual schedules continue to make it hard for the band to be a full-time concern.
“It’s an ongoing battle,” acknowledges James, 68, a University of Michigan graduate who has a home in Traverse City. “We talk about it all the time. It would be nice, but sometimes something comes up for us individually that’s really hard to turn down. And there are logistical problems, like if Fourplay comes into an area then the promoters don’t want us to come in as individuals too soon.
“But, y’know, one way or another we’re still rockin’, so we seem to have figured it out.”
James, meanwhile, emerged as the dominant force on Fourplay’s latest album, “Energy,” writing three of the 10 songs himself and collaborating on a fourth.
“For one reason or another, I was feeling very ambitious,” says James. “I came up with a couple ideas that stuck, and nobody was counting.” He also brought in his daughter, Hilary James, and son-in-law Kevin DiSimone to cowrote the “Energy” track “Prelude For Lovers,” which features a guest vocal by Esperanza Spalding.
“Every time there’s a Fourplay project there’s almost always a vocal involved,” James explains. “Sometimes we end up with cover songs, but I thought it would be great to have an original this time, and I encouraged them to submit something.
“They came in with the song and everybody loved it. I was thrilled when it made the cut and made it onto the record.”
Fourplay and Alexander Zonjic & Friends perform at 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 15) at the Get Jazzy Evening, a benefit for the Don Bosco Hall of Detroit, at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn. Tickets are $100, $75 and $50. Call (313) 943-2350 or visit www.dearbornfordcenter.com.
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