Fresh off last year's Grammy nomination for his Jeff Lorber Fusion project 'Now Is The Time', Lorber has wasted no time in taking the concept back to the studio. The follow up, 'Galaxy', was released on January 31st and, with eleven choice cuts, finds this consummate keyboard player, composer and producer exploring new and refreshing grooves while also revisiting four old songs from the JLF back-catalog. The collection also includes outstanding contributions from JFL regulars Eric Marienthal on sax, percussionist Lenny Castro, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarists Paul Jackson Jr. and Larry Koonse, drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl plus legendary bass-player Jimmy Haslip who built a sizeable reputation through his time with Yellowjackets.
The music of 'Galaxy' is rooted in fusion which is very much a style that Jeff has successfully utilized over the years, both with his live performances and in the studio, to secure what is now a formidable fan following.
This time around there is a lot of energy in the music and this starts as early as the first track. Titled 'Live Wire', it runs for seven minutes and cleverly marries house music with contemporary jazz. 'Big Brother' has a smoothness that is achieved by Jeff's delightful keyboard arrangement which is front, back and center stage of this excellent track. That said, the sound of the piano never outshines the rest of the musical instruments but is nevertheless a nice addition to what is an extremely upbeat and finger-snapping piece of work.
Listen out for 'Montserrat' which is a track built around the 1980 hit by the Police called 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' while elsewhere the festive and lovely 'Singarara' features a clever mix of contemporary jazz peppered with joyful salsa music. Lorber also includes a tribute to Horace Silver which he simply titles 'Horace'. In fact Jeff credits jazz pianist Horace as the man who first inspired him to play and later in the CD Jeff make old favorites come alive by adding some futuristic grooves to 'Wizard Island', 'City', 'The Samba' 'The Underground'.
In conversation with JazzReview.com, Jeff told me more about the new album.
JazzReview: Kudos on your new CD Jeff. I remember the last time we spoke we were talking about 'Now is the Time' and now, after what seems like just a few months, here we are again. Did this new album really come together that quickly?
Jeff Lorber: I think a lot of it happened around a year ago. We did a lot of the recording in December of 2010. In all we finished the project over a four to six month period.
JazzReview: Within that short of space of time how was it possible get all those in-demand musicians to work with you?
Jeff Lorber: Well, luckily for me there are so many great players in Los Angelesand without a doubt one of the finest drummers is Vinnie Colaiuta who is very versatile and I was very lucky to get him. Musically he has a wonderful sense of time and in a way that is the foundation. Once you get good tracks and drums, it's good. Basically there are just some fantastic players in town. There is Eric Marienthal and Paul Jackson Jr. who are both funky. Then there is Michael Thompson who specializes with effects and he can get those effects from his music because he uses so many different styles.
Larry Koonse is more or less a straight ahead soloist. We actually didn't look to him for rhythm or support but in fact he shines. For the most part, some of the guys that I used this time around were on my 'Now is the Time' recording. I haven't worked with Vinnie in years. I worked with Eric a lot and also started using Jimmy more and more. I also knew some of the other guys from when I first moved to LA. For example my history of working with Paul Jackson Jr. goes back to when he was a teenager. Larry is relatively new. I used him on my last record.
JazzReview: You have played fusion music for years and it has become one of your more signature styles. I also remember some fusion styles being on the last CD. Why did you decide to go down this musical road again?
Jeff Lorber: Everybody was kind of happy with the results of the 'Now is the Time' record and the audiences we were playing for liked the music and the idea of bringing back fusion music. Fusion music is energetic and adventurous both harmonically and melodically. On the last record we had some vocals and a few songs that were in the direction of R&B. This time around we are offering a more focused record with excitement in the music.
JazzReview: Describe the type of fusion that you have experimented with on the latest CD.
Jeff Lorber: We used a lot of electrified jazz which is energetic. However, the focus is not so much on the sounds as much as it is on the writing, the rhythm, the soloing, the feel of the group and the interaction of the players as they perform together.
JazzReview: What is your overall view about this new CD?
Jeff Lorber: To be honest with you, and I'm sure every artist says this; this is one of my favorite records. I have been listening to it a lot and enjoying it.
JazzReview: Do you have a personal favorite?
Jeff Lorber: 'Montserrat' is my favorite. Of course there are some songs on there that we reinterpret. I'm really excited about the new music. The older ones have been underground for quite a few years and this was a way to document how my music has evolved over the years.
JazzReview: Let's talk about some of the tracks on the CD. The first track 'Livewire' is very upbeat and high energy stuff.
Jeff Lorber: It definitely has a house music feel with a European kick drum kind of a characteristic. Michael Thompson plays incredible and although he is the sound guy he plays an exciting, very electric, kinds of sound which makes the instrument appear more like a synth than a guitar. Then there is Vinnie who plays the drums and it's spontaneous and inspired and that keeps it exciting. I think 'Livewire' leans towards electronic music. I think melodically, from the songwriting standpoint, it's pretty solid. People like that.
JazzReview: What about the older tracks on the album?
Jeff Lorber: 'Wizard Island' is a big favorite of mine as well. It has a great melody and people ask for it all the time. 'The Samba' has been popular in Europe and sampled in remixes. The original version featured Chick Corea. 'City' is a fun song that has an interesting melody and groove and of course there is 'The Underground'. I have learned so much since I first recorded those songs. Back then I did not have the musicians of this caliber to work with so, to reinterpret them, we have given the songs a fresh coat of paint.