Relations is the sophomore release from San Francisco's Times 4, a hot modern jazz quartet comprised of Lincoln Adler on sax, drummer Maurice Miles, keyboard player Greg Sankovich, and Kevin Lofton on bass. Drawing inspiration from smooth jazz, fusion, Latin, funk, rock, and even a little hip-hop, Times 4 groove through ten tracks here on Relations quite effortlessly, and overall the album has a very live feel. Adler's sax plays the main role here, and he has a sweet tone that literally soars through the melody on "Mojito" and adds the right amount of jazz & funk spunk on the classy "M.O.". Speaking of funk, bassist Lofton pops plenty of acrobatic lines on "Thickness" alongside the nimble drum work of Miles, while Sankovich adds in plenty of understated organ tones and Adler's lazy sax melodies drift in and out of the mix. Sankovich really struts his stuff on the Fender Rhodes and Hammond driven "Cell Phone", a real loose piece with a catchy melody and lots of great interplay from the band. Other highlights include the atmospheric jazz of the title track (featuring more tasty Rhodes sounds) and the 70's flavored jazz-rock piece "Central Park".
Overall this is a fun jazz CD, but I had a very minor quibbles. First, I kept waiting for the band to rip it up a bit, which they really don't do until you get to track nine, "Hericane", which is a great little complex & funky number. For the most part they tend to stay in a similar groove for most of the album, which is not really a bad thing, but it's obvious they have the chops and plenty of fire to do a little more. Next time I'd love to hear them add a little more variety and take a few more chances. Second, as talented a player Sankovich seems to be, at times his keyboard work is buried in the mix, and it would really be neat to hear him play on some vintage instruments rather than the obvious thin sounding digital keyboards that he is using. At times he really comes close to some cool sounding Rhodes and Hammond tones, but many of his synth sounds are somewhat watered down and flat sounding. These minor points aside, Relations is certain to appeal to any contemporary jazz fan who is looking for some solid new music.
4 Cell Phone
6 Full Moon
8 Central Park