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Let's Touch The Sky

4.4 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Sometimes you have to shake things up, push a little farther, reach a little higher - even when you're a contemporary jazz foursome that's been operating at the top of its collective game for two decades. After twenty years and a dozen albums, in an industry that has undergone sweeping transformations in the past decade, Fourplay knows that the only thing that's certain, in music or any other business, is change. The latest proof of that axiom is the new face in their lineup - that of guitarist Chuck Loeb, who makes his compelling debut with the quartet on Let's Touch The Sky.

Loeb completes the four-man crew that also includes the band's founding members: keyboardist Bob James, bassist/vocalist Nathan East and drummer/percussionist Harvey Mason. Let's Touch The Sky also includes stirring performances by guest vocalists Anita Baker and Ruben Studdard. The infusion of new blood into the Fourplay lineup creates an opportunity to bring an even newer level of energy and inspiration into a band that is already known for taking chances and pushing the limits of contemporary jazz. "All four of us have been in this business long enough to know that there's always pressure to compromise, and we don't want to do that," says James. "We don't want to end up in the middle of the pack. We always aim to be leaders, and take the music to another level and raise the standards higher. I think the music on this new record, thanks in large part to Chuck's early contributions - and to the ongoing team spirit of the band as a whole - is very much a reflection of that philosophy."

Loeb, who openly admits to being a fan of Fourplay since their earliest recordings, sees his new membership status as the opportunity of a lifetime. "I want to be a part of the legacy they've built, going all the way back to their first recording and right up to their most recent one," he says. "There's been an incredible level of quality in the musicianship, the writing, the whole sonic palette that they're famous for. I'm excited to be a part of the next step in the evolution of all that." That sense of romanticism combined with optimism defining the project makes the rhythmic and exotic title track the fitting opener to the set. Written by James, the song sits atop a comfortable Latin groove and showcases the interplay between the keyboardist and his new band mate on acoustic guitar. The follow-up track, Loeb's driving and intense "3rd Degree" is a reference to his role as the third guitarist in the Fourplay saga (the original lineup included Lee Ritenour, who was later replaced by Larry Carlton in the late `90s). The track is built on a syncopated rhythm that allows plenty of room for everyone on hand to stretch out and demonstrate their virtuosity.

Guest vocalists Ruben Studdard and Anita Baker appear on the soulful "Love TKO" and the dreamlike "You're My Thrill," respectively. Studdard was recruited by East, after the two had appeared together in a live performance in Washington, DC. "They were filming a television special," East recalls. "There was a break to reload the cameras, and I just started playing the bass line of `Love TKO.' Ruben stepped up to the microphone to sing, and everyone in the room just stopped. I knew right then that we needed to have him sing this song on a Fourplay record, and when we asked him, he was very much up for it. The whole thing just came together so easily."

Mason, who has held down the groove for Fourplay since the very beginning, says time has done nothing to dull the edge. The band continues to explore new ways to reach for the next level of musicianship and creativity. "Let's Touch The Sky is the perfect title for where we are right now," he says. "In some ways, bringing someone new into the fold has made us a new band. It opens up new opportunities and new potential, and we want to see how high we can take it."

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 25, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Heads Up
  • ASIN: B003X413M4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,378 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
How does a group that is on its third guitarist maintain a consistent sound and style? I don't know but Fourplay HAS figured it out. Fourplay fans will find all the things they love about the group with the additional accent of Chuck Leob's 6 string.

What do all the current and past Fourplay guitarists have in common? It's their ability to play with Bob James, Nathan East and Harvey Mason, on their own terms and for the fellas to accept the guitarits distinctive styles in stride. That said, I think Chuck Leob brings a lyricism that has been missing from the group for some time.

The standout cuts will be the vocal collaborations including the homage to Teddy Pendergrass "Love TKO" featuring Rubin Studdard. It's every bit as soulful as the original, but with the Fourplay sound. The collaboration with Anita Baker "You're My Thrill" sent a shiver up my spine. Expect Grammy nominations.

But long time listeners will also appreciate the re-emergence of some of the individual voices of the players. I mean that literally. Nathan East delivers a wonderful vocal performance on "I'll Still Be Loving You." It's the perfect kind of song for a weekend winter morning.

In sum, this is another outstanding album from Fourplay that longtime and new listeners can enjoy.
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It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that's it's been twenty years since this band debuted as contemporary jazz's first super group... individually they are stunning, together they are unstoppable. Bob James, Harvey Mason and Nathan East have been holding down their 3 corners of the foursome since the beginning while legendary guitarists Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton have moved on leaving the coveted guitar slot of the Fourplay legacy open... another worthy contender steps in, renown guitarist/composer Chuck Loeb debuts on LET'S TOUCH THE SKY with contributions that Bob James calls "very much a reflection of the Fourplay philosophy of team spirt." Loeb inaugurates the new project with his tune "3rd Degree" (in reference to his role as the 3rd guitarist) as the first radio single. Other big news here is that the project includes stirring performances by guest vocalists Anita Baker on the jaw dropping "You're My Thrill" and American Idol's Ruben Studdard impeccably covering the classic "Love TKO." Never settle for practical goals when, in fact you can reach the lofty ones... let's touch the sky!
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These guys, very fine musicians all, have created an album that pleases the right and left brain. Taste, chops, respect, conversation, all the good stuff is happening in bushels. But, as good as they are, as finely crafted as the work is, it still is basically a genre that is over. In an effort to remain relevant to the general public, their more creative tunes are balanced with a healthy dose of pop pablum. Nothing wrong with pop pablum if that's your preference, but if so, there are so many more qualified sources... Having said all that, I still enjoy listening to four awesome players balancing virtuosity and taste, accessibility with harmonic sophistication, self-indulgence with team spirit. Many lessons are on offer for those few musicians who actually want to play instruments together all at the same time. As for the easy-listening pop, well, there's always the "next" button...
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I've been listening to Fourplay from the very begining when they released thier first CD in 1990.
Let's Touch The Sky is one of my favorate Fourplay CD's. Chuck Loeb is a nice fit to the group. I really enjoy the vocal tracks on this CD Nathan East on I'll Still Be Loving You, Ruben Studdard on the classic Love TKO and it is nice to hear Anita Baker on You're A Thrill. My fvorate instrumental on the CD is Chuck Loeb's Above And Beyond. Let's hope that Fourplay's Success continues for many years to come!

Jeff
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There's not much to say except that Fourplay is on top of their game. With Chuck Loeb in the mix, the band certainly has a different vibe but continues to display the same technical skill and great sounds I'm used to. I've been a Fourplay fan for the last 12 years or so after seeing them perform at a strange club in San Antonio, TX. I never expected them to keep rocking the house in 2010! If you're a fan of jazz...no scratch that...if you're a fan of music in general, pick up this CD.
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I have a been a fan of Fourplay since their first release. They have always had great chemistry together. While I still appreciate their talent, I couldn't find anything on this release that really grabbed me. It all kind of sounded the same. Previous releases have always had tunes that reached out and grabbed me. I don't know if its related to the guitar player change, or just a general lack of the usual electricity in their playing. Hope they get it back next time.
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HELLO my friends, I own all of FOURPLAY high quality albums, should I review them all,they are all 5 stars to me!!. real instruments delivering splended, melodious, sweet soothing sound!!. Dotted by vocals from some of the best voices in the business, FOURPLAY is my very favourite instrumental group!!
"LET'S TOUCH THE SKY" is the thier latest album and just like the others it sure soothes my soul, standouts are "LETS TOUCH THE SKY", "I'LL STILL BE LOVING YOU" with easy vocals by NATHAN EAST, yes, real nice! "GENTLE GIANT", "A NIGHT IN RIO" is just dandy too!!.RUBEN STUDDARD'S tribute to TEDDY PENDERGRASS "LOVE TKO",is so very well done! I love it it's beautiful. "ABOVE AND BEYOND" & "GOLDEN FADERS" are smooth yet lively pieces, topping off this well done cake is "YOU'RE MY THRILL", with the enchanting ANITA BAKER, this song could never be better!! It's my most loved song on this project,a real relaxant!!
This is the kind of album you lay in your couch after a hard days work with your special someone and just drift away...if you're into things like that then I recomend this soother to you...
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