4Track All-Stars
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4Track All-Stars

Band Hip Hop Jazz

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"Inside the Brain of J:"

4Track All-Stars almost live up to their moniker. The "all-star" part is indisputable, with the some of the best and brightest from Cincinnati’s jazz/funk community taking part. But the sound is way beyond the old Tascam cassette recorder. Far from lo-fi, the debut disc is a dizzying mix of electronic beats and jam-funk grooves iced with stellar jazzy soloing and old school rhymes. The band's sound is a marriage of two elements of the Cincinnati music scene that are, on the surface, barely aware of one another: hip-hop and traditional jazz. It might not be the key to racial harmony in the city, but if others follow the 4TAS lead, the result could be a powerful new cross-pollinating genre." - Ezra Waller, Cincymusic.com


"Review:4Track All-Stars :: 4Track All-Stars"

Yeah. Hell yeah. The self-titled debut from 4Track All-Stars comes on strong and never lets up. From rap-over-funk jams to tricked-out 70's cop show themes, the music runs the gamut and is masterful every step of the way. 4TAS is the baby of J, the sax and bass-keys player for Freekbass. He is a disciple both of jazz players and DJs past and present, and has created a beautiful union of the two with this project.

4TAS picks up jazz right where white people started to get comfortable with it. Then dragging it through the last three decades, they assimilate the best bits that funk, R&B and hip-hop have offered along the way. For instance, the horn and electric guitar drenched fusion of the 70's is here in full force. Old school rap from the 80's present and accounted for. Evolved electronic beats, sounds and samples from recent musical history complete the package and add a contemporary feel to the whole project.

Alongside J, the core band on the CD consists of fellow SHAG vets Don Gauck (guitar) and Jim Tobias (drums), Monk’s Brahm Sheray (bass) and Zionite Matt "Fingers" Green (keyboards). All among Cincinnati’s best jazz players, the grooves this crew lays down are incredible. They provide a rock solid foundation for 4TAS tinkering, as well as mind-shattering solos, especially from Gauck. J adds saxophone, synths and drum loops. Along with Stu Engel (trombone) and Mike Mavridoglou (trumpet, Ray's Music Exchange), he navigates colorful and challenging horn arrangements. On the keyboard front, J uses a variety of vintage weapons including ARPs, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 and Mini Moog. Combined with modern synths, the resultant sound is retro perfection, familiar yet timeless.

While half of the tracks are instrumentals, vocal performances are a focal point of the 4TAS sound. The rhymes laid down by Mista Swift (drummer and MC of Freekbass) are playful, clever and completely intelligible. "Time (Tickin')" is part reminiscent narrative and part a warning to not to underestimate "the power that expands between the minute and the second hand." "P.O.V." is a sizzling indictment of the powers that be in Cincinnati. These two tracks also contain soulful "la-las" and "aahhs" from Joanne Reynolds and Melanie Gregory. On "Ghosty Moe" and "Bebop 2.0," Nick Barrows adds his compelling beat poetry to the mix, blending perfectly with Mark Samson's dense Drum KAT performances to create a heavy trance experience.

Tracks flow like water from one vessel to the next, forming a seamless bucket brigade of funk. Where the harmonizing horns at the end of "Move II" cross fade with the guitar harmonics in the "Time (Tickin')" intro, you imagine these guys standing shoulder to shoulder in the studio, passing the vibe like a baton, taking care not to let it drop. And the intensity of this disc never drops. While the compositions have enough room to let the soloists breathe life into their instruments, there is no extraneous jamming or interludes that let the listener’s attention wander. The whole journey is carefully and tightly arranged.

The opening track, "Turn It Up" let’s you know where these guys are coming from and lays out their goal of creating a "style that’s brand new." Despite having heard this line a thousand times from MCs and wannabes, this time you can take it to the bank. By combining traditional elements of jazz and R&B from the past and present, 4Track All-Stars are carving a niche with a sound that is edgy yet accessible. Building on groundbreaking artists of the past, they are ready to take their funky new style where it truly belongs…the future. - Ezra Waller, Cincymusic.com


"4Track All-Stars:"

The other intriguing local CD release of the week comes from J, sax player and keyboard player for funk heroes Freekbass. His Side project "4Track All-Stars" is an innovative blend of jazz, hip hop, funk fusion and liquid grooves and plays as a fun, eclectic attempt at taking a jam band groove to a new level. - Rick Bird, The Cincinnati Post


Discography

Self-Titled, released 11/02
"Why Don't We Do It In The Road"-Part of Scott Belmer's upcoming Beatles biography.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The Four Track All-Stars’ premier and self-titled release represents nearly five years of work by J, the group’s founder and creative instigator. Starting in earnest in 1998, literally within a week of his last show as a member of local funk super-group SHAG , J sought to truly put the “contemporary” into comtemporary jazz. In “modern” instrumental music, J found a form that had been languishing since the mid-1980’s, caught in a soft-core purgatory between Orange County mall-music, stand-up comedic walk-on segue, and new age. It was time to bring jazz up to date, to remind it that it had once been labeled devil- or race- or refer-music and that it was damn well time for it to act accordingly. Lawrence Welk and Kenny G=Bad. Sun Ra and Wayne Shorter=Good.

To achieve this, J enlisted the help of some unlikely “friends”. Some were old (like the Arp Axe synthesizer and Fender Mark 1 Rhodes languishing in his Cliftonian basement). Others, new (a digital Alesis HR16 drum machine and Yamaha REX-50 effects unit). But the final lynch-pin of the entire process was loaned to him by ex-(and then later current-)band mate Chris “Freekbass” Sherman. During years on the road together with SHAG, a certain Tascam PortaStudio four-track recorder had changed hands. This cassette four-tracker became the centerpiece in the project’s early and prodigious writing phase. Over time, the album and band began to take shape, adding members and better gear as it neared completion.

Still other, carbon-based friends contributed. Old and new band mates. Former schoolmates. Family member, “of sorts” and actual. Members of distinguished local and regional acts like Freekbass, Ray’s Music Exchange, Bastion, and Monk. The confluence of ideas, musical and sonic, became so great that the Four Track All-Stars stepped beyond the boundaries of jazz, hip-hop, electronica, and rock all together and into something truly fresh. In fact, J is still trying to come up with a name for it, genre-wise.

Whatever it ends up being called, one thing is for certain: you haven’t heard anything like this before and you’ll want to hear it again and again after the first listen.