I always enjoy discovering new groups that successfully fuse various genres, coming up with a unique sound that showcases their individual musicianship. 4te, with members from Hong Kong and Taiwan, is a jazz quartet that delivers their collective knowledge that combines elements, style, and melody that line up perfectly while accenting the power of the musical term ‘forte’ for which the band has taken their name.
On their debut release “City Jazz” available as a stereo Hybrid-SACD from evosound, the supergroup reimagines ten Cantonese and Japanese classics into a melding of fusion, smooth, and modern jazz that is a magical combination of musical worlds. Comprised of leader and musical director, producer, and pianist Kriz B, drummer Hang Tzu “Fish” Yu, guitarist Alan Kwan and bassist Tsang Tak Hong, the group reels out exciting, well-thought-out arrangements and a seamless flow of the album right from the start.
Evosound maintains their high bar for sound quality, and this stereo Hybrid-SACD is another wonderful audiophile aural ecstasy from the Hong Kong based record label. I especially enjoy the overall clarity and smoothness of this DSD disc that kicks off with the suave and cool groove of “Tantalizing,” which is underpinned by a resilient bass, striking drums, and electrifying guitar. Each note of the bass is completely full and expressive, while the drums are especially crisp and snappy along with being extremely responsive to the subtleties of Yu’s playing. Kwan’s guitar work reminds me somewhat of the ‘Wes Bound’ album by guitarist Lee Ritenour, exuding a vibrance and transparency that I have come to expect from current day recordings.
“Hana” starts off by carrying forward the tender sound of Weather Report, primarily with Hong’s fretless bass work along with B’s gentle keyboard parts. Still current times take hold and 4te is true to its name as the dynamics are revved up throughout the remainder of this track as the band literally rocks in allowing bassist Hong’s to shine brightly as he coaxes disarming melodies from his instrument. Keyboards spread nicely across the sound field and fall slightly behind the speakers, with the bass firmly focused between the main channels. Cymbals splash to the left and right eventuating the peaks, going on to simmer into a distinct Cantonese melody.
There is a hesitating joyful skip beat on the song “Don't Go” that imbues a very solid snare thwack and poppy kick drum. The free feeling led by the groove of the rhythm section is accompanied by smoothed out keyboard parts that glisten across the soundstage. The guitar vamps from the right channel and provides sultry solo work that pours from the center on this very uplifting peace.
I have always fallen for well written melodies that flow over a progressive set of cord changes. The fifth tune “Fall in Love” draws me in with a melody that truly tells a passionate story, much like the evolution of love the melody evolves throughout the song. Additionally, while some segments are somewhat restated on this classic big-band flavored tune, the instrumentation, and voicing changes, giving new life as the song builds from beginning to end. Again, one of the fantastic aspects of the SACD is its ability to transparently showcase every instrument through a pleasantly wide channel separation, allowing for perfect clarity that far surpasses standard resolution formats. Although the instruments are electrified, they yield a natural acoustic feel, with absolutely no edginess, plus a real nice upper midrange and onward into the highest frequencies. The lows and mids are well balanced, making for a wonderful listening experience.
One may notice as they get further into City Jazz that the magic lies mainly in how each song is put together. My favorite song on this release is “Men & Women” featuring an organ and guitar melody that vigorously stop-and-go in mostly a fusion jazz way. The slightly biting guitar cuts through a more traditional jazz structure that is met by a zesty organ solo as the piece traverses it sections. Once again, dynamics are on fire as we come out of a blazing guitar solo that leads into a short drum break, that in turn tempers down into a softer electric piano solo.
I am certain that a great time was had by all developing the aural scape on “Red Wine Heart” featuring an extended delay and ambient reverb that clearly follows the strike of each snare hit. While there is an absolute direct presence, placing the instruments near o ones listening spot, there is also an extreme amount of depth that allows for the vast distance of space to fall behind the speakers. The sound stage is huge, giving the calm song ample room as is slowly flows along, extending melodic phrases which soar across the cavernous space. There is an absolute air of familiarity to this slow-tempo tune that is warm and inviting.
It is less common to end an album with a humongous finale like “Sky,” that peaks and crescendos, but then again, the hustle of city life stand firmly here. With its excellent sound quality, composition, and musicianship, City Jazz is a fine collection of songs from 4te. Their ten songs are performed with great rigor, making for a joyful set of jazz infused classics that are perfect for nearly any moment of the day.
While I have reviewed the Hybrid-SACD edition, City Jazz is also available on 180 gram limited numbered violet sparkle colored 12" vinyl LP and as a single MQA-CD, which is also playable on standard CD players. When a conventional CD player is connected to an MQA-enabled device, the CD will reveal the original master quality.
Strongly recommended for fans of fusion jazz, smooth jazz, and contemporary jazz collectors. City Jazz is another great sounding SACD from evosound to add into one’s collection.
Released August 5, 2022.
2.0 Hybrid-SACD, MQA-CD, 180g Vinyl (after 9/23).
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