JazzMonthly: I know that Fourplay launched out of the sessions you, Bob, Nathan and Lee did for Bob’s 1990 album Grand Piano Canyon. When you decided to join forces as a group, what was your collective goal at the time? Has that evolved?
HM: From the beginning, we wanted to be like the Modern Jazz Quartet, which spun off from Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band and then became a working ensemble for the next 40 years. We didn’t want to make it a one-off all-star project. The idea was to be around for a long time, and so far we’ve pulled it off. It all started pretty simply. The Grand Piano Canyon project was flowing so well that Bob just asked us, hey, would you guys like to be in a band, and we all said, sure. No one balked for a minute. Bob told Warner Bros. President Mo Ostin what we wanted to do and he supported us fully. We signed a deal, got in the studio to record our first album and it went platinum. We got off to a great start.
JazzMonthly: What makes the chemistry work? How do you stay excited, focused and creative, and after over 20 years, what keeps you guys motivated and coming up with new musical adventures and ideas?
HM: First of all, it’s about respect. Everyone in this band is a gentleman. Everyone respects the others’ feelings. We may not agree on everything, but we do things democratically and you win some, you lose some. We discuss our differences and get through them. To tell the truth, it’s like a marriage. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, there’s a feeling of teamwork and camaraderie.
I love these guys. We go our separate ways between albums and tours but can’t wait to get back together for the next go-round. It’s easy when you have the same goal, and we travel well. Above all, it’s fun…we stay in nice hotels with a nice crew, go out to dinners together, have a good time and enjoy each other’s company. We share new ideas, gadgets, apps, drink fine wine, write songs and make videos. Being on the road was something of a new experience when Fourplay first started. I was a studio guy and loved the stability of that.
I had done one world tour with Carole King and various dates with Bob, but otherwise I was pretty grounded and happy in my career. It was a little scary at first giving up a lot of that work, but even after 20 years on the road, it’s fresh and exciting and doesn’t beat me up. I get to meet fans of mine who say they have been listening to my recordings for years but didn’t think they’d ever get to see me play live. So that’s fulfilling. I think for my career, Fourplay came along at just the right time. These guys know how to make records.
JazzMonthly: Are there any recent experiences with Fourplay that stand out for you?
HM: Yes, last December, we played for the first time with a Japanese symphony orchestra in Tokyo. We did a 14 camera video shoot of the show in HD, and the video just came out. I had played on many soundtracks so I adapted well to having all the brass, strings and woodwinds behind me. It was great to hear these songs we had been playing so long orchestrated like this. I’m sure there are many more exciting experiences we’ll have in the future. No matter how busy we are in our solo careers, Fourplay is everyone’s priority and we can’t wait to see what’s next. That Esprit De Four makes it all happen.
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