City of Four | Not Lost Review
by Stamish Malcuss
City of Four is a fusion band from Massachusetts that performs original instrumental music influenced by jazz, funk, and fusion. Mike Caudill and Christian Tremblay met while they were students at UMass Amherst and created City of Four. Since then, the ensemble has received an “Outstanding Performance” recognition from DownBeat Magazine in the Blues/Pop/Rock category and having tracks and performances recognized by ASCAP and MIX Magazine. City of Four is now releasing their EP Not Lost. This EP consists of tracks recorded in early October 2020, before the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. The band had booked time in the studio for 3 days in July to record a full-length album, but the second week of March came, and the rest is history. Not Lost is a play on the expression, “not all those who wander are lost,” which to the band encapsulates the feeling of trying to make sense of pandemic-era life as a live performer. City of Four is Mike Caudill on saxophones and EWI, Christian Tremblay on keyboards and synths, Blain Crawford on bass, and Steve Wilkinson on drums.
“Said & Done” finds the ensemble laying down a crisp, clean funk fusion groove with Crawford and Wilkinson delivering a resourceful pocket. The melody is persuasive and brings forth a fusion-leaning composition by Tremblay. The keyboard and saxophone solo are deep within the pocket, and both are enticingly melodic. In addition, Wilkinson’s drumming is exceptionally agile and keeps the song moving forward.
This project started as a DIY session to stay in touch with friends and supporters on social media but became more profound and celebrated friendship, mutual respect, and perseverance. That can be heard on “5 AM Headrush,” a Crawford original composition. The ensemble layers into the groove. The melody has space and moments of activity. Crawford’s bass lines are propelling as the song’s form unfolds its tuneful gems. His solo is a play of rhythms, and his conversation with Wilkinson is always ongoing. Caudill is very fluid as he navigates the terrain with ease and expression. Each member brings something unique to the table.
Not Lost is an outstanding debut for the City of Four. The five songs are written with many surprises, and each has its own feel and texture. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the recording lacks, especially in the drums, but that will indeed be fixed with their next recording. In sum, a rich and rewarding freshmen project by City of Four.
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