Album Remarks & Appraisals:
The Native Language debut from this Toronto-based Electrojazz group, features the hit single Noodle Soup.
"Four80East is one of the so-called nouveau jazz bands that has emerged in an era where a smooth jazz wave has proliferated the sanctity of traditional jazz ideologies. Since the late 1990s, Four80East has been at the forefront of what has been called acid jazz, which by any stretch of understanding has given purists cause to wonder. But make no mistake about it and in spite of the Naysayers, this band has found a way to provide a niche in jazz that few can argue with. Their improvisational dance-induced acid jazz offerings have spawned two previous releases and their latest CD entitled En Route on the Native Language label follows a formula that continues to criss-cross a variety of musical styles. But no matter how Four80East is analyzed, their strength lies in the fact that their music is fresh, vibrant and uncommonly cool in approach.
En Route is an album that is filled with toe-tapping rhythms and sensual melodies. The Toronto-based group uses a variety of influences to make their music happen, which includes sound effects and strategically placed soulful grooves. There are eleven tracks of dance-oriented instrumentals, all of which have been described as music often heard on the disco circuit of the 1970s. As with many so-called acid jazz groups, their music is not clearly defined as smooth jazz or any other type of jazz for that matter. However, the music appears to move and groove under its own dynamic moniker. Four80East is not any different, the band operates on a plane that expresses their own stylized ability under an umbrella of electrified vibes. At various times, they do enter an arena reminiscent of smooth jazz influences; however, they also have a protracted R&B mosaic that fills in the few blanks that may exist.
One of the more outstanding tracks on En Route is a cut entitled "Noodle Soup," which garnered "Best Original Song" accolades at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. As predicted, the urban influences of jazz and R&B music tore at the fabric of danceable rhythms and groove-oriented theory. But that is only one aspect tied to Four80East's journey into sound, other songs such as "Don't Look Back," "Waterline," "Double Down," "Closer" and "Easy Come, Easy Go" offer a panoramic view into the musical style ofFour80East. There is an ebb and flow into and out of hypnotic melodies as well as the upbeat foot stomping style they are closely attuned to.
When examining the improvisational nature of Four80East's music, the first realization noted is that they are not typical. As heard on their previous efforts, En Route is an album that is filled with energized danceable beats, successive rhythms and soulful melodies, some of which are tied to interwoven vocals. All in all, this latest release is another exciting body of work and is a joy to be heard." -JazzReview
JazzTimes (p.114) - "[S]tate-of-the-art instrumental music that's intelligent, sophisticated and stuffed with surprises..."
Personnel: Rob DeBoer (guitar, keyboards, programming, background vocals); Jon Stewart (tenor saxophone); Bryden Baird (trumpet); Tony Grace (drums, percussion, programming); Divine Brown (background vocals).
Recording information: The Speed Of Sound, Toronto, Canada.
The line that separates jazz-electronica from "smooth jazz" (or, let's be honest, from plain old easy listening) can be a treacherously thin one. It's the line that separates Weather Report from, say, Spyro Gyra, and many artists drawn to that borderland end up becoming forever lost in the shifting sands of watered-down funk grooves and wind chimes. Four80East navigate the line pretty well, and if they occasionally stray onto the syrupy side, you get the feeling that they don't really care as long as the grooves are fun and the melodies are attractive -- which they really are, almost all the time. "Five by Five" opens the album on an interesting and funky note, and is quickly followed by the all too aptly titled "Noodle Soup," a tune that is perhaps just a bit too silky and a bit too infused with synthesized strings (and wind chimes). But "Double Down" generates a darker and edgier mood, and "Easy Come, Easy Go" flirts nicely with reggae. "Closer" is an example of a song that dances around the edges of goopiness -- the "ha ha hey hey" vocals are just kind of silly, though most of the other elements in that track are fairly engaging. En Route is a very pleasant listening experience overall, even if parts of it are more soothing than interesting. ~ Rick Anderson