Jeff Lorber - Galaxy (2012)

Jeff Lorber
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I decided to do a little compare and contrast when I turned my attention to the review of Galaxy, the latest recording by Jeff Lorber Fusion. I reviewed Now Is the Time, JLF’s project from 2010, so I typed Lorber’s name into iTunes search application, which allowed me to zone in on songs in my playlist in which Lorber’s name is mentioned. Of course, I got the tracks from both albums, but I also saw tracks from other projects where the keyboard player performed as a guest artist. 

I decided to do a little compare and contrast when I turned my attention to the review of Galaxy, the latest recording by Jeff Lorber Fusion. I reviewed Now Is the Time, JLF’s project from 2010, so I typed Lorber’s name into iTunes search application, which allowed me to zone in on songs in my playlist in which Lorber’s name is mentioned. Of course, I got the tracks from both albums, but I also saw tracks from other projects where the keyboard player performed as a guest artist. 

It should not be surprising that the talented piano player frequently gets called on to be a collaborator on jazz, R&B and pop projects. Lorber is a jazz musician, which means he brings a level of virtuosity to his performances, and leaders want the benefit of that skill in their sidemen. Lorber also knows the value of bringing in talented players, and he recruited people such as Paul Jackson Jr. to work on Galaxy. The result is a record that differs from Now Is the Time in some respects. For example, the previous recording included several vocal tracks while Galaxy is all instrumental. However, both records have one thing in common in that Lorber and his sidemen display a comfort level in delving into all of the musical elements that gives jazz-fusion its unique sound.

To be sure, fusion fans will hear large doses of funk. Cuts like “Live Wire” and the title track showcase the band’s ability to bring energy and creativity to high tempo tunes. Like any good jazz front man, Lorber is generous in giving space for his sidemen to improvise and create. Lorber, in turn, gives fans numerous opportunities to appreciate his skills on the keys on tracks such as the mid-temp “Big Brother.” Lorber does his best keyboard work on “Horace,” a cut dedicated to the great hard bop pianist Horace Silver.  Silver is best known for hard bop and soul jazz classics such as “Song For My Father,” and “Senor Blues,” but he explored fusion as well. Lorber’s energetic keyboard riffs, and the funky conversation he engages in with the saxophone are distinguishing qualities that a fusion innovator like Silver would appreciate.

On Galaxy, Lorber continues a welcome trend that I have noticed in the fusion and contemporary jazz albums I have received in recent years. These artists eschew the smooth jazz template of Muzak-type covers of R&B tunes. They opt instead to fuse funk with jazz improvisation. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in an increase in the quality of contemporary jazz-fusion records. In the last few months, George Benson, Michael Franks and Stanley Jordan have all released solid fusion records. Galaxy represents another solid effort by a musician looking to change minds about what jazz-fusion is and what the genre can be. Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 

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