During the good old days of jazz fusion, between the 1970s and 1990s, Lorber helped to pioneer and expand the music style’s improvisatory approach.
“This new album, Galaxy, is sort of a further evolution of the concept that we started with [2010 album] ‘Now Is The Time’ and I think it’s a little more focused, a little more energetic and a little more exciting than the previous record, although the previous one was my favorite still,” he explained.
Released last year, Grammy-nominated Now Is The Time, recaptures the spirit of fusion. It revisits materials produced by Lorber during the past 30 years of his career as a keyboardist-composer. One of the really great songs on the album is “Mysterious Traveler” by saxophone great Wayne Shorter.
Lorber talked to me about Galaxy, his career in music and his legendary style. During the interview, you will enjoy two full songs from the album: “Live Wire” and “Horace,” which is named after the legendary jazz fusion pianist, composer and bandleader Horace Silver.
Galaxy, features 11original recordings and marks the reincarnation of Lorber’s funk-fusion group “Jeff Lorber Fusion”. He formed the original group in Portland, Oregon in 1975, featuring very influential names in today’s jazz world – among them legendary pianist Chick Corea. The group released their self-titled debut album in 1976 and quickly became one of the most popular acts on the jazz fusion scene. But the group faded out after the mid-1980s.
“I stopped using that name [Jeff Lorber Fusion] in the 80s, in 1985. It was actually from doing this type of touring in Europe that we kind of came up with the idea of calling it Jeff Lorber Fusion again because the European promoters like to use that name to promote my shows,” explained Lorber. “And we just thought it was about time to bring back the spirit of that early fusion jazz music that’s very adventurous, very up-tempo, it’s very interesting harmony and improvisation.”
Lorber studied music at Berklee College of Music. In his 20s, Lorber listened extensively to two jazz piano icons and jazz fusion pioneers, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. He says he was heavily influenced by them.
Lorber also works with other artists doing some writing and producing. Earlier this year, he teamed up with Grammy-nominated saxophonist Patrick Lamb to produce a new album titled: It’s All Right Now. The breakout CD features stellar LA musicians like Paul Jackson and JR from the popular NBC television program The Tonight Show. He also produced an album for saxophonist Richard Elliott.
Lorber uses his improvisational skills to blend old school R&B rhythms with modern jazz. “Well, I think the Blues is really at the heart of jazz. It’s at the heart of popular music in general,” said Lorber. “I have a tremendous love for the blues, and I think it would be impossible to listen to anything that I’ve ever played or recorded for more than, you know, ten seconds [laugh] without hearing some kind of blues in there somewhere.”
He believes the blues is universal. “When I take piano students on, the very first thing we study is the blues. That’s what everything comes from,” he noted.
Listen to Lorber’s skillful fusion in Pacific Coast Highway & Cat Paws on Jazz Club USA from the 1996. Music follows Arabic narration. On the show, Lorber explains jazz fusion. You will also enjoy clarinet great Artie Shaw’s Temptation in the Down Memory Lane segment at the end of the show.
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America