The success of Fourplay, an all-star pop-jazz unit featuring keyboardist Bob James, guitarist Lee Ritenour, drummer Harvey Mason, and bassist Nathan East, offers further proof that history recycles itself. In the ’70s, James, Ritenour, and Mason were busy laying the groundwork for a genial mode of pop-jazz fusion that would become hugely successful by the late ’80s. At a time when there are many pretenders to the throne, these veterans still show how it’s done on Fourplay, with music that is perfectly hummable, perfectly polished, and perfectly harmless. Melodic nuggets are neatly laid over pillowy funk grooves and solos are pithy and polite. The aura of calculated pleasantness occasionally yields to unusual musical twists, such as the slalom-course arrangement of James’ ”Quadrille.” What’s missing is enough spontaneous interplay or sense of adventure to lift the music out of the realm of sports-show theme songs, wine cooler commercials, and boutique/bistro chic. B-

  • Music