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Roll On

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Album Review

The fifth album for Canadian-based, run-on-named combo Four80East, Roll On isn't afraid to climb into a time machine and bring retro-funk/fusion headlong into the new millennium stylistically. A dance craze group influenced by the Austin Powers era as judged by the psychedelic cover art, the band touches on disco in some regards, the funkier side of Quincy Jones, the Headhunters, Stax soul, the Crusaders, or even chill shades of Jazzanova. Keyboardist Rob DeBoer sets the tone with his multiple overdubbing of electric keyboards and bass guitar, while drummer Tony Grace keeps the beat funky, and saxophonist Jon Stewart fills in here and there. It's a production number rather than a live sound DeBoer seeks and succeeds with, giving youth-oriented acid jazz a new voice, and club DJs further food for thought. From the dance-oriented title track with Stewart's flighty flute leading the way, the harder-edged "Back in Five" which is quite similar to the old pop hit "Son of a Preacher Man" done in a spacier Headhunters style with Stewart's echoplexed sax, or the unpretentious, urban-street-level funk of "After All This Time," it is easy to understand where Four80East are routed. But the band is not stuck in a rut, as "Loosey Goose" has more of a contemporary soul-jazz organ combo feel, guitarist Matthew Davis drives the melody, unlike on the another track "While the City Sleeps," and a Euro-chill-type funk identifies "Race the Moon." Mindful of cinematic chase scenes or black exploitation action films, the mean-streets feeling of "Just Passing Through" is undeniable, although Stewart's soprano adds a nice contrast, while "Shot in the Dark" could have easily been a part of the soundtrack of movies like Shaft or Superfly — Jim Brown or Richard Roundtree take note. Only on the sparer, loose, Afro-Latin "Never the Same Way Twice" does the band somewhat step out of this mold. Fans of Galactic, Soulive, and Topaz should appreciate this look back at instrumental R&B-influenced popular music in transition, forwarded to current dance hall beats from a differently hip perspective. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Formed: 1997 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Toronto-based Four80East is actually a studio side-project for Rob DeBoer (piano, guitar, bass, programming) and Tony Grace (drums, programming), who, along with Grace's brother Paul, run Boomtang Records. Four80East developed over several years, between Grace and DeBoer's remix schedule (for the likes of Econoline Crush, Amanda Marshall, Corey Hart, Wild Strawberries, Philosopher Kings, and Ashley MacIsaac) and their other project, the pop band the Boomtang Boys. Four80East started as an outlet...
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Roll On, Four80East
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