Trailblazing keyboardist composer producer Jeff Lorber revisits a sound he helped pioneer on his latest recording, Galaxy, set for release on January 31, 2012, on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group.
Yellowjackets’ bassist Jimmy Haslip joins him in this 21st century version of the Jeff Lorber Fusion along with saxophonist Eric Marienthal, trumpeter Randy Brecker, percussionist Lenny Castro, guitarists Paul Jackson Jr. and Larry Koonse, and drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl. Haslip also co-produced the album and co-wrote five tunes with Lorber.
“What I like about working with Jimmy is he’s very intuitive,” says Lorber. “It’s often hard for me to wear so many hats so I really count on him for advice. I have a lot of confidence in him and really trust him. He has a good big picture sensibility, and he really loves the whole recording process, like I do.”
“Coming into the project, I felt like Jeff was plugged in with an explosive energy,” Haslip says. “He was writing up a storm. I just wanted to help in any way I could. Jeff is an incredible producer, and I learned a lot working with him.”
Following up on his GRAMMY®-nominated 2010 release, Now Is The Time, Lorber again culls from his early catalog but gives a fresh approach to some of his most highly requested compositions, including “Wizard Island,” “City,” “The Samba” and “The Underground.”
“Essentially this album is a part two,” Lorber says. “It features the same rhythm section, but it’s even more into the jazz fusion direction. It’s more energetic and the performances are tighter.”
Galaxy spotlights 11 originals – all instrumentals – that cover the scope of electrified jazz. The disc opens with “Live Wire” “At over seven minutes long, it’s a real powerful, up-tempo song,” says Lorber. “It’s fun to play and hopefully just as fun to listen to. “
“Live Wire,” like most of Galaxy, is a showcase for the work of renowned drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. “We had three days with Vinnie to cut basic tracks,” Lorber says. “Basically, he’s the best drummer on the planet, so once he lays down his drum parts – which are like the foundation – you’re ready to go. His work really inspired the rest of us.”
That inspiration also lives on “Big Brother,” a tune that recaptures the essence of contemporary jazz, while the soulful and funky “Montserrat” works a groove loosely based on the Police’s 1980 hit “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around.”
While Colaiuta handles most of the drumming on Galaxy, Lorber recruited Dave Weckl to perform on the title track. “Weckl has been on my last three records,” Lorber says. “And I love the way he plays.”
Lorber’s look back at jazz fusion is also a look at the present, and to the future, including vibrant reinterpretations of “City,” from the Jeff Lorber Fusion’s 1980 LP on Arista, Wizard Island (which introduced a young saxophonist named Kenny Gorelick, better known as Kenny G), and “The Underground” featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker, from Lorber’s 1993 album on Verve Forecast, Worth Waiting For.
Among Lorber’s favorites is “Horace” (dedicated to Horace Silver), the American jazz pianist and composer who inspired so much of his playing. “Horace Silver was one of the first guys I ever heard that I could understand what he was doing,” says Lorber. “Along with Ramsey Lewis, he’s one of the forefathers of fusion jazz. He blended funk and a melody with jazz. Sometimes he’s not given a much credit as he deserves.”
The Latin-influenced “The Samba,” originally from the 1978 album, Soft Space, on the Inner City label, highlights the skills of guitarist Larry Koonse. “Larry is awesome,” Lorber says. ‘LA has some wonderfully talented musicians, and he’s pretty well known in the straight ahead scene here.”
Those who have heard Lorber perform live know how hard his band grooves, and “Wizard Island” from the Wizard Island album, is one of his most requested tunes, “I’ve always focused on instrumentals that are going to be fun to play live,” says Lorber. “We’ve been doing so much touring, and songs like this were made for live performance.”
Much of Galaxy was mixed by Michael Brauer at Electric Ladyland in New York City. Brauer’s credits include the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, Ben Folds and John Mayer. “I think Michael is brilliant,” says Lorber. “His mixes are always so creative. Michael’s like a musician, only his instrument is the mixing board.”
The fresh sounds on Galaxy expand the possibilities of where technology is taking music – the old becoming new, the modern becoming post modern. “It’s a step up from the last album,” Lorber says. “It’s more energetic, harder hitting and even more cohesive. This record really takes fusion to another level.”
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