Four80East is the brainchild of producers Rob DeBoer and Tony Grace, also known internationally for their indie label/production house, Boomtang. Born in 1997 as a small indie UK release, “The Album” went on to revitalize the Smooth Jazz world the following summer when the first single, “Eastside”, broke through in the US to became the seventh most-played track on Contemporary Jazz radio that year.
Their sound lies at the forefront of what has been called the nu jazz movement – taking the best of contemporary jazz and pop styles and aligning them to produce a improvisational dance-infused sound. This Toronto-based group draws from a variety of sources to make their music happen, including found sounds, field recordings and sound effects alongside their finely crafted studio recordings.
As with many so-called “acid jazz” groups, their music is not clearly defined as smooth jazz or any other type of jazz for that matter. Four80East operates on a plane that expresses their own stylized ability under an umbrella of electrified and funky vibes. They have a pronounced R&B influence that fills in the layers between jazz and soul. Improvisational by nature, their recordings are filled with club-inspired beats, exotic rhythms and soulful melodies, some of which are tied to interwoven vocals. A unique sound that can only be described as “Four80East”.
Don’t let the title of Four80East’s latest album Off Duty fool you—after over 20 years, veteran Toronto based composers and remix producers Tony Grace (beats and percussion) and Rob DeBoer (guitar, keyboards) are busier than ever, finding colorful melodic and grooving new twists on their trademark Nu Jazz vibe. While the titles of their previous hit albums En Route (2007) and Roll On (2009) reflected a dynamic high energy dance element in the mix—a sound they fully captured in their huge, award winning hybrid hit single “Noodle Soup”–Four80East is kickin’ back and chillin’ this time around with a fresh update on the classic acid jazz influence that drove their earlier recordings in the late 90s.
Not that the two multi-talented musicians couldn’t use a break like the New York City cab whose neon “Off Duty” sign (photographed by DeBoer) glows on the album cover. After working primarily in the studio for the first 17 years of their eclectic partnership, they’ve been hitting the road regularly since 2007, mixing it up onstage with some of contemporary urban jazz’s most popular artists at festivals and venues across the U.S. Since the release of Roll On, they’ve also expanded their longtime audio production business to launch Ooya, Inc., which focuses on TV and film composing. One of their long term gigs has been doing the music for Income property, a home improvement show on HGTV that debuted in 2009. Longtime fans of the duo know that their history includes recording their own albums as The Boomtang Boys, and producing and remixing for a variety of pop stars over the years as they built their film scoring resume
The duo originally launched Boomtang in 1990 as a 12-inch label, releasing club singles to the U.K. Their production of Camille’s “Deeper Shade of Love” single won a Juno award in 1995 for best dance recording and went on to become the second biggest single at radio for Sony Germany. They showed a knack for hopping between genres by simultaneously earning a Juno nomination in the best R&B/Soul category for their production on Charlene Smith’s “Feel the Good Times.” In the 2000s, their expansive work flow included remixes and additional material for projects with Carol Pope, Billy Klippert and Kayle; co-writing and producing the film score and soundtrack for the Bravo film “When Moses Awoke”; and writing and producing for Fessional (“Summer Vibes,” which went Top 30 at CHR Radio), Colette Baron-Reid, Ash Lee Blade (an up and coming heavy metal artist), Simone Denny (“Cliché,” which hit #4 on Billboard’s Dance Singles chart) and pop legend Melissa Manchester.