The contemporary jazz group Fourplay, made up of four legendary jazz musicians in their own right, is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the aptly titled album Silver, which was released on November 20.
Harvey Mason, the quartet’s drummer and one of the founders of the group, said that the band members’ experiences playing with a variety of artists before coming to Fourplay contributes to their staying power as a group.
“We learned when to support and when to step back or step out and support and to work hard on projects and I think that is a big part of it,” Mason said. “We’re all team players, so to speak, and we’re able to support and know when to give and take….Each guy is a very smart guy, I think that’s a big part of it.”
The group’s pianist, Bob James, said that the group operates as a “democracy,” and said there’s “a strong desire to have all of us represented equally.” Mason echoed that James’ comments and said that he think that’s the best way to keep a band together.
“Each of us has a vested interest in the band in every possible way, musically and economically,” Mason said. “It’s your baby, so you care about it and you’re going to put your all into it. If you end up in a situation where someone is the leader and they’re dictating what’s going to happen, it’s less appealing and I don’t think you have as much of a feeling of owning it as you would if it was a democracy.
“So it’s pretty clear why that would work better, especially if everyone gets along and likes everyone and everyone has equal goals and the goals are outlined and you know where you’re going and I think that’s the best way to have a band like this.”
He added that respect and adaptability are other reasons the groups been able to successfully work together for so long. “As far as music, we all adapt to all different kinds of music,” Mason said.
“We can play all different genres of music. So it was easy for us when we started playing together, the synergy was so good that it was easy for us to say let’s continue playing together, let’s continue growing together and see where this goes.”
The group has gone on to sell millions of records, earn Grammy nominations, hold top positions on the Billboard charts and receive a designation United States Congress as distinguished members of the recording industry.
Now, the quartet – Mason, James, Nathan East, the bassist, and Chuck Loeb, the guitarist – is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an album of songs related to the word silver, including a tribute composed by James to the late Horace Silver, one of his favorite jazz pianists. Another track, composed by Mason, called “A Silver Lining,” showcases a different side of the group.
“I wanted something that wasn’t quite so smooth,” Mason said. “I wanted something that was a different feeling for us, closer to a jazz, loose kind of feel….That and another song I wrote for the album are a little different from what Fourplay would play, but it sounds like Fourplay.”
Fourplay, with their new material and some old tunes, are coming to the DMV with a December 8 performance at The Birchmere.
“We love playing at The Birchmere, we look forward to playing there and come out because we’re going to bring the new CD and some of the old things and you’re going to love it,” Mason told the News-Press. “And the band is fiery.”
• For more information about Fourplay, visit fourplayjazz.com.