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Fourplay Returns With New Member, New Album

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Doug Levine

The all-star contemporary jazz group Fourplay recently bid farewell to their longtime guitarist Larry Carlton.  But, the four-man band wasted no time finding his replacement and recording a new album.

Fourplay isn't known for changing personnel.  In fact, in its 20 years of existence, the band has only made one change, when Larry Carlton replaced original member Lee Ritenour in 1998.  

Carlton, who performed with Fourplay for 12 years, says he wanted to spend more time on his solo career.  Living up to his promise, he released the album "Take Your Pick" just two months after his departure.

The new lineup reveals accomplished "smooth" jazzman Chuck Loeb, who made his Fourplay debut at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival in Florida earlier this year.  Soon, Loeb was in the studio, accompanying what he describes as "some of the planet's finest musicians" on their latest album, "Let's Touch The Sky."

Chuck Loeb solos on the track "Pineapple Getaway," featuring Fourplay founders Bob James on piano, Nathan East on bass and Harvey Mason on drums.

Now approaching its third decade as a top contender in the smooth jazz field, Fourplay prides itself in being a band without a leader.  Each player shares in the composing, arranging and producing of their material.  As Bob James remarks, "We always aim to be leaders, to take the music to another level and raise the standards higher."

Special guests on "Let's Touch The Sky" include veteran vocalist Anita Baker, and former American Idol winner Ruben Studdard, who sings the soul classic "Love T.K.O."

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