Fourth Way, The - The Sun And Moon Have Come Together (Digipack)









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Jazz (US)

Original release 1969
Re-issue 2010 Take 5

The Fourth Way was a jazz ensemble composed of Eddie Marshall, Mike Nock, Michael White, and Ron McClure. They formed in 1967 and worked primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area through the early 1970s, releasing three albums

Despite the album's title, Fourth Way remains mostly earthbound on The Sun and Moon Have Come Together. Structure is never abandoned at a song's expense and, when the group does head outward, any sense of aimlessness is avoided. No band member exemplifies this better than bassist Ron McLure. Satisfied playing a traditional walking bassline, he is just as comfortable straying from strict time. On Farewell Goodbye, McLure breaks out of his conventional role, testing the possibilities of his instrument. His playing spans the spectrum, twisting time, bending notes, making strange leaps, and managing it all exceptionally. A similar fluidity can be felt with every member of the band. Only half of the songs on The Sun and Moon (a live recording from 1969) follow a standard jazz structure. On Strange Love, solos emerge out of the group's interplay rather than taking place within a given number of choruses. Sometimes, the musicians sidestep jazz altogether, picking up new instruments or approaching their own with a childlike creativity. On Ebony Plaza, they employ a thumb piano and recorder. The song's melody (which sounds as if it could have been composed on the spot) is simple, repetitive, and strangely exotic. Roles are reversed again on Skiffling, where McLure takes up the basic tune, repeating it throughout. Over this foundation, the others add embellishments of plucked violin strings (Michael White) and strummed piano chords (Mike Nock). It is this openness to approach that makes the performances so captivating. The oddest moment is reserved for the closing Strange Love. Beginning with an elliptical theme, the musicians break the song down as far as they can until its starting point seems lost for good. Before it disintegrates completely, however, they take up the melody again, only to end it with a fevered exchange between White's violin and McLure's bowed bass. Fourth Way's career was short-lived and all of the band's recordings remain out of print. It's a shame, given the credentials and talent of every band member, that they are merely a footnote in the history of (electric) jazz. ~ Nathan Bush , All Music Guide