The New Cool is a long time coming for one-half of the modern R&B jazz group Fourplay. Pianist Bob James and bassist Nathan East, together with the full range and force of Yamaha Entertainment Group’s state-of-the-art gear, extract the bare essence of each song’s character in the 11-track album out for an official release September 18.
The entire album of originals and a few, spare covers is an acoustic splendor of what piano, keyboards, and bass can do given the right circumstances, the right engineering — recorded in Nashville, and the right collaborative duo. Because James and East have been playing together for so long, naturally, their music will always go deeper, picking up on sonics — an exploration in the loveliest of melodies and harmonies — that otherwise might go unwarranted.
Quite often, other musicians weren’t necessary to achieve the lovely landscape of East and James. “The more I played with Nathan over the course of many live performances and spanning more than 25 years, the more in sync we were whether or not we had the anchor of the drums,” explained two-time Grammy artist James in a recent release from Great Scott Productions. “Something special happens when we only have each other’s notes to play off of, when the music is totally exposed.”
The New Cool is a record the two have discussed for quite some time now, the recently Grammy-nominated East added, also from the release. “I’ve always loved the sound of the piano and bass together, and have enjoyed duo recordings by the greats: Bill Evans and Eddie Gomez and Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden. The New Cool is our celebration of more than 25 years of friendship and musical camaraderie. This collaboration was embraced by Yamaha Entertainment Group and producer Chris Gero, who took it yet to another level.”
The Nashville Recording Orchestra joined James and East in the recording that quietly flows from one voluminous “Turbulence” to a sweeping, “Crazy” Vince Gill Broadway number conjuring up images of Oklahoma and Carousel.
The mix is always intensively well thought out, whether the tune breezes by Brazilian jazz (“Canto Y La Danza”), joined by percussionist Rafael Padilla and drummer Scott Williamson, or East lifts the notes in an ethereal vocalese on “All Will Be Revealed.”
Bob James climbs on top of one note to the next in “How Deep Is The Ocean,” as if to forage for the last scraps of love left in a loveless marriage. Then in “Waltz For Judy,” he removes the staying power in a series of somber musical trails accompanied by a string section that drifts, pregnant with unresolved sorrow.
Look for backstage video vignettes from the New Cool Album website and a documentary about the recording process closer to the release date. Of course, Bob James and Nathan East will promote their new duo album, with a major concert set for TV and live streaming.