Exotica Song Of The Month: April 2012





Rio Rush





Yet again I'm deciding to present a somewhat questionable choice as the Exotica Song of the Month: it is Fourplay's Rio Rush off their fittingly titled fourth album 4, released in 1998. The title already links explicitly to one of their most famous synth-driven Jazz pieces ever, Bali Run off their debut album from 1991. If you're not familiar with Fourplay – and as an Exotica listener, you surely don't need to –, it is a so-called Jazz super quartet whose members gained international success with their solo projects. The combo that plays Rio Rush consists of Bob James who is the keyboardist in the band and famous for his themes of TV series and Hollywood movies, among them the long-lasting 70's sitcom Taxi that was successfully transfered to the 80's, guitarist Larry Carlton, bassist Nathan East who has co-written various songs with Phil Collins and Eric Clapton, and drummer Harvey Mason. Since Fourplay are a Jazz Fusion band that merges contemporary synthesizer sounds with R'n'B-like rhythms and easy to grasp harmonies, this is the perfect band in my book for Jazz novices who might feel put off by overly eclectic or cacophonous compositions. Back to Rio Rush: Well, the name says it all, it is a surprisingly long track with a runtime of almost 8 minutes. If you are in a good mood, let's just pretend that the upbeat Rio Rush is a good contender for the month of April.

In typical Fourplay fashion, this rather lively and quick song begins with an ethereal Ambient synth that is complemented by electronic cowbells, classic piano backings, placid bass pluckings and maracas. Guitarist Larry Carlton uses his semi-electric feature guitar, the Gibson ES-335 for the main melody that is also sung by female backing singers. The most successful elements, at least to my perception, are the various interludes and sections between the repetition of that main melody. Bob James' improvised and complex piano melodies are backed by keyboards which often change to atmospheric synth strings. The coalescence of the joyful Brazilian topos with the soothing, dreamy nature of the synth-driven ambience are the contrastive elements of virtually every Fourplay song, and you either love this energetic fusion or despise it wholeheartedly. The strong focus on Brazilian percussion devices used in Samba and Mambo songs such as the clear cut, highly distinctive howling sound of the cuíca friction drum injects a boldly perceptible exotic flavor to Rio Rush, but without latinizing the song. The result is as fake and locationless as many an Exotica tune. After almost 5 minutes, a gorgeous drum intermission is on, and the drum bursts are vibrant and terrifically punchy, making this a great song for jogging and outside activities.

Curiously enough, the same warning applies equally to this Contemporary Jazz song as it does to vintage Exotica music of the late 50's: this song is as Brazilian as Exotica music is Polynesian. Original, seldomly used instruments alone don't magically create a traditional folk or tribal song. The same can be said in regard to the original composition called Rio Rush, co-written by Harvey Mason and Abraham Laboriel. Fourplay's song makes use of the famous cuícas, but the pictures of Samba dancers and colorful carnival chaos occurs only in front of the listener's inner eye where it is connected in his or her head. And as it is the case with the overwhelming majority of proper Exotica tunes, Fourplay's song is streamlined, easy to digest and only partly complex in regard to a few piano interludes. In addition, the interwoven female ba-dah-dah chants aren't unknown to Exotica afficionados either. If you are up for a clinically clean, perfectly produced and skillfully mixed Jazz tune without rough edges or huge surprises but which is done by four highly expert musicians who know the effect of each ingredient on the listener, Rio Rush is Fourplay's most Brazilian, tropical and upbeat song. It is not the only slightly Latin song by the band, though. If you really can't get enough of their Brazilian style, listen to Amoroso (off the 1993 album Between The Sheets) or Rozil (off Journey, 2004) if you prefer a slowed-down, gentler approach of the Brazilian topos. Last question, last answer: Is Rio Rush an Exotica song? Sorta.





Exotica Song Of The Month Review for April 2012: Fourplay – Rio Rush (1998). Originally published on Apr. 2, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.