May 23, 2024

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The music is the perfect nexus of jazz and funk – two ingredients that have long been at the heart of Jeff Lorber’s music: Video

04.11. – Happy Birthday !!! “I’m a science fan and like to watch youtube from videos from different lectures about various scientific subjects especially physics,” confesses Jeff Lorber. Those who know Lorber’s music are probably not surprised, as he is a force of nature. His pressure-cooked grooves are kinetic energy at work.

The velocities of his virtuosic solos hitting the right momentum create an electric field of pure joy. Trailblazing pianist, composer, producer and bandleader Jeff Lorber has hit a career stride and shows no signs of slowing down. A groundbreaking Fender Rhodes pioneer along with Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample and Bob James, Lorber has triumphed as one of the most innovative musical minds in contemporary jazz. Last year Lorber marked his 40th recording anniversary and in January 2018, he scored his first Grammy win for his Jeff Lorber Fusion recording Prototype in the category of Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. “The whole thing was a bit surreal,” recalls the Cheltenham, PA born and LA based pianist. “Winning a Grammy was a thrill, especially after not winning after the last six nominations. It felt very different to hear my name rather than somebody else’s after ‘the winner is…!’” The experience left Lorber and longtime collaborator and bassist Jimmy Haslip (founding member of The Yellow Jackets) recharged and ready to start work on their next album. Lorber shares, “I’m always giving Jimmy a hard time about “moguling” because he’s always on the phone talking to clients he’s producing.” Lorber and Haslip’s plan was simple. “We were committed to try to make a record that was even funkier, more focused and musically compelling than the last one,” states Lorber. “At this point the chemistry we have works so well together that it’s really about having fun in the studio. We enlisted many of our brilliant collaborators that we like to work with – of course Andy Snitzer and Gary Novak, as well as Dave Mann, Paul Jackson Jr., Peter Mokran and Michael Thompson, among others.” August 17, 2018 Shanachie Entertainment will release Impact, Jeff Lorber’s third recording for Shanachie Entertainment.

There is an energy and excitement that permeates every note on Impact. The music is the perfect nexus of jazz and funk – two ingredients that have long been at the heart of Jeff Lorber’s music. “It’s really been what my music has been about since my first album,” he explains. “At that time, I had been studying how to play be-bop (which I still love) and I was really influenced by Herbie Hancock’s first album in a more funky R&B style, a TV soundtrack called Fat Albert Rotunda. Of course I loved all of his records that followed that like Headhunters and Thrust and other fusion bands at that time like Weather Report, Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I was also influenced by R&B music of that time, groups like Tower of Power and EWF especially. Today we just keep that approach alive. I always listen to New Music Friday on Spotify and try to hear what new exciting sounds are being made and try to reflect where music is now and where it’s going in my writing.” With one foot planted in the rich history of the music and another leaping towards the uncharted territory of the future, Jeff Lorber remains one of the most exciting and thoroughly enjoyable pianists/composers and bandleaders on the scene.

There is a palpable energy when Lorber talks about his creative process. “I really love writing, recording and performing. I don’t look at this as work,” confides the pianist. “I’d much rather have some playing that has a ‘vibe’ over something that doesn’t but is more technically perfect. We just keep the process moving. We don’t get bogged down and we just have a good time recording.” The feel and instantaneous joy that is so prevalent on Impact is what makes this occasion such a memorable excursion. Jeff Lorber Fusion serves up ten delectable tracks that snap and crackle with combustible grooves, finger-poppin’ melodies, jet-fueled funk riffs and joyous free-wielding improvisations.

Impact opens with the propelling funky groove of “Sport Coat Makes Good,” a title that comes from Jimmy Haslip’s tenure with Bruce Hornsby and is inspired by a certain guitarist in the band who always wore a sport coat. “To me this song has some magic that started when Gary (Novak) came up with his angular New Orleans inspired groove,” shares Lorber. “It has a goofy charm that’s unusual, and all the ingredients came together just right.” Take note of saxophonist Andy Snitzer’s blues-strutting solo, which adds just the right touch. Dave Mann also offers superb horn arrangements on the R&B inflected “Sunny Sounds” which features some funky commentary from Paul Jackson, Jr. The band leaves nothing on the table with this opening number, setting the tone for the spirited affair ahead. They stretch out and displays magnetic interplay as they dive into the jam “Pasadena City,” which kicks off with a blistering bass solo from Jimmy Haslip. Jeff Lorber Fusion pays homage to Horace Silver with “Citizenship,” a Latin-tinged blues bop. “It’s a chromatic turnaround that you don’t hear as much of these days. The song sounds modern but the basic compositional elements would also be at home in a late 1950’s jazz ensemble.”

Lorber shares, “Andy and I have a lot in common because we both grew up in the same Philly suburb and went to the same high school. The Brecker Brothers were also CHS alumni. When we talk about his approach to a song it’s usually on a continuum from Joe Henderson to Jr. Walker.” Lorber hopes that the song “Companion” will be a musician’s favorite. “It has very syncopated chordal shifts, which I came up with on guitar. I almost always write on the piano,” says Lorber. “This is the most fusion style song on the record. It is also the only song with another drummer besides Gary Novak – Lil’ John Roberts. Roberts’ credits include a cross-pollination of genres as he’s worked with everyone from Christian McBride and Wynton Marsalis to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince to Sinéad O’Connor. Lorber’s says of his longtime comrade Gary Novak, “Gary grew up in Chicago and played professionally from his youth with his dad who was a respected jazz piano player who backed up all of the top names who would come through town. Gary’s a proficient piano player himself and also plays bass. Gary is one of the top session drummers in L.A. and has accompanied everyone from George Benson to the Pussycat Dolls.” The sunny swinger “Arda” uplifts with its sweet melody and cool back and forth exchange between Lorber and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. Impact closes out with the memorable “Valinor.” Lorber says, “This is definitely one of my favorites songs. It’s based on an Eb major F to G minor nine chord sequence. It’s another example of where I think all of the ingredients fell in place. You may recognize that the album’s last two tracks “Arda” and “Valinor,” both take their titles from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional geography. Lorber states, “I started writing both of these songs on a trip to China, where I was inspired and I think we’ll be visiting there more often.”

Jeff Lorber Fusion came to life in the 70s when the pianist attended Berklee College of Music. A true clinician, Lorber has made it a point to study the long line of modern jazz pianists since 1945. “Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea have been major influences but I had to go back and try to figure out who they listened to and were inspired by,” says Lorber. “Some of these icons that come to mind are Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner and Bud Powell.” He adds, “I also can’t forget all of the pianists who played with Miles Davis such as Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan and Horace Silver.” Growing up in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania offered great inspiration for Jeff Lorber. “There were a lot of home grown record labels like Cameo Parkway and Philadelphia International (Gamble and Huff) not to mention tons of home grown talent and the Dick Clark show originated from there too.”

In 1977 Jeff Lorber Fusion released their self-titled debut. Their 1980 album Wizard Island made the introduction of a then little known Kenny G. The ensemble quickly gained traction and became one of the most popular jazz acts, touring nonstop. In 1982 Lorber made his solo debut with It’s A Fact. He scored his first Grammy nomination in 1985 for his radio hit “Pacific Coast Highway” from his album Step By Step. In the 90s Lorber released a successful string of projects including West Side Stories (1994), State of Grace (1996) and Midnight (1998). During this time Lorber also stayed busy producing Michael Franks, Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright and Rick Braun, among others. The prolific pianist continued to add to his accolades with his shining recordings Kickin’ It(2001), Philly Style (2003), Flipside (2005), He Had A Hat (2007, Grammy nominated) and Heard That (2008), Now Is The Time (2010, Grammy nominated), Galaxy (2012, Grammy nominated) Hacienda(2013, Grammy nominated) and Step It Up (2015). Lorber made his first recordings for Shanachie as a member of Jazz Funk Soul with Chuck Loeb and Everette Harp on the albums Jazz Funk Soul and the Grammy nominated More Serious Business. Lorber scored his first Grammy win for his critically heralded Prototype in 2018.

Jeff Lorber has endured his own battle with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and has made it a mission to work with the PKD Foundation to raise awareness. “I was very lucky that my wife donated her kidney,” shares the pianist. “I’m going on 14 years and I’m very grateful for that. My sister had a transplant a couple years ago and she is doing well also. There are some solutions that are being worked on but like many genetic based diseases it could be a long time before there is significant progress. People should know that there are 800,000 people in the US with PKD and two million worldwide. It’s a huge problem that unfortunately doesn’t get a lot of publicity.”

“I hope people listening to Impact will enjoy it as much as we did making it. The real completion of the album is when the fans get their hands on it and hopefully really dig it. We’re also looking forward to playing this material on the road, which will be a lot of fun,” concludes Lorber.


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