Having the good fortune to interview Jeff Lorber shortly after the release of Now Is The Time which should have won the Grammy for contemporary jazz album 2010, I may have been the first jazz journalist to uncover a potential sequel or follow up was being considered.
Confirming my accuracy if not my suspicions, Heads Up will release The Jeff Lorber Fusion Galaxy on 01/31/2012.
Again with an all star line up including Jimmy Haslip, Eric Marienthal, Paul Jackson Jr., Vinnie Colaiuta, Lenny Castro, Dave Weckle, Larry Koonse and Randy Brecker - Jeff Lorber does not just revisit a sound he pioneered but goes one step further in reinventing his own sound for contemporary jazz. Lorber is widely considered as being the founding musical father of what has become known as smooth jazz which is basically lyrically accessible instrumental jazz drawn from some pop and rhythm & blues sensibilities. In reality the smoother side of jazz is a radio format, not a genre of music. In my brief conversation with Lorber he expressed certain misgivings if not concern over how the original jazz/fusion movement seemed to take a softer more accessible approach that may have not been the original intent of most artists.
Jeff Lorber now presents Galaxy, a musical reinvention of his prodigious talents and an intense throw back to a time when contemporary jazz was known for having a bit more of an edge. Yellowjackets' bassist Jimmy Haslip co-produced and co-wrote five tunes with Lorber. There are fresh takes on Lorber classics such as "Wizard Island," "City," "The Samba" and "The Underground."
Galaxy kicks off with "Live Wire" and the incomparable drumming of Vinnie Colaiuta along with a keen lyrical sense of direction and joyous spirit. Larry Koonse shines on a more modern jazz guitar solo with clean intense lines while the tune develops an abstract harmonic sense of excitement and texture. "Montserrat" again finds drummer Colaiuta owning the pocket and a dynamic solo from the most under rated saxophonist on the more contemporary scene in Eric Marienthal. Lorber handles the work on Rhodes, Piano and Minimoog again adding layers of sonic flavor while a subtle punctuated funk creeps from the horn arrangement. "City" keeps the intensity and improvisational groove in full effect again showcasing Marienthal and the all star rhythm section. Closing with "The Underground" which features Randy Brecker, a flash fired and fully funkafied bass solo from Jimmy Haslip the only musical let down here is that it is sadly the last track on an otherwise perfect release. You walk away from the musical table hungry for more!
Jazz battle lines have been drawn between genres with differences on occasion being as thin as a sheet of paper. Galaxy is not a release that breaks barriers, it smashes through them. In the press release Lorber sites Horace Silver and Ramsey Lewis as inspiration and their influence shines on what is arguably the best Jeff Lorber Fusion release to date and possibly the most important contemporary jazz record in the last quarter century.
Other artists speak of that new sound or direction for contemporary jazz. The search is over as the Jeff Lorber Fusion has simply taken what they do best, made it better and raised the bar for others to follow.
Tracks: Live Wire; Big Brother; Montserrat; Singaraja; Galaxy; City; Horace; The Samba; Rapids; Wizard Island; The Underground.
Personnel: Jeff Lorber: Rhodes, synth bass, loops (1), guitar (2), guitar, rhodes, piano, minimoog (3), rhodes, synth bass (4), guitar, rhodes, synth bass (5), guitar, rhodes, synth bass, piano (6), guitar (7), synth bass (9), guitar (10), rhodes, piano (11); Eric Marienthal: alto saxophone (2,3,6,9,), soprano saxophone (4,5,11), tenor saxophone (7,10); Jimmy Haslip: bass (2,5,8,9,10,11), percussion (8) Vinnie Colaiuta: drums (1-4 & 6-11); Michael Thompson: guitar (1,2,3); Andree Theander: guitar (1,4); Larry Koonse: guitar (1,4,8,) Lenny Castro: percussion; Paul Jackson Jr.: guitar (2,4,5,6,7,9,11); Randy Brecker: trumpet (4,11); Dave Weckl; drums (5).