Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Jeff Lorber Fusion - "Prototype" Release on Shanachie March 24, 2017 #jazz

Trailblazing pianist, composer, producer and bandleader Jeff Lorber is a consummate artist who continues to push himself to new plateaus. A groundbreaking Fender Rhodes pioneer along with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample and Bob James, Lorber has triumphed as one of the most innovative musical minds in contemporary jazz. The multi Grammy-nominated pianist’s newest CD is a sterling example of his expansive musical roots, masterfully crafted harmonic and melodic sophistication, irresistible finger-poppin’ grooves and intricate rhythmic sense. “I came up with the name Prototype because we are always trying to up our game and come up with new exciting music that could be a prototype or innovative harbinger for the future of our musical style,” says the LA based pianist. Lorber, a Berklee College of Music alum who formerly majored in Chemistry at Boston College goes full throttle on Prototype, orchestrating like an alchemist in the lab concocting a majestic elixir of jazz, soul, funk, pop, R&B and gospel.

Prototype features longtime collaborators – bassist Jimmy Haslip (founding member of The Yellowjackets) and drummer Gary Novak. “From a production standpoint Jimmy adds a ‘big picture’ element. He contributes a lot with his warm bass sound and on the road he is without a doubt one of the finest soloists out there on his instrument.” Lorber adds, “Gary’s very versatile, imaginative, super solid and gets a great sound. He really shines playing over the funky polyrhythmic grooves we record.” The newest member to the all-star unit is saxophonist Andy Snitzer, who like Lorber (and the Brecker Brothers) hails from Cheltenham, PA. Lorber states, “Andy’s got a perfect approach. It’s soulful and melodic and he is not afraid of taking the music outside a bit.” Prototype also features special guests bassist Nathan East, guitarists Chuck Loeb, Larry Koonse and Paul Jackson, Jr. and saxophonist Dave Mann, among others. 

“Writing is something that I really enjoy and I’m always coming up with ideas to work on,” states Jeff Lorber, who penned nine of the tracks on Prototype and co-wrote one with Jimmy Haslip. “We put a lot of work, love and care into this record. I hope that everyone who hears it enjoys listening to it as much as we enjoyed writing and recording it. I think it’s the kind of record that will reap dividends by repeated listening because there’s a lot of great playing that you can only appreciate by really getting into it and checking out all the details.” Prototype opens with the spunky and electrifying “Hyperdrive” hinting to the euphoric musical excursion that lies ahead. The track features guitarist and Jazz Funk Soul collaborator Chuck Loeb who calls Jeff “an amazing guy and talent.” Lorber says of bassist Nathan East, who also appears on the track, “Nathan played on ‘Hyperdrive’ because I originally wrote that for his project. He played great on it so we kept it. I have to thank him for not using the track because it’s one of my favorites and the first single!”

The album’s title track is a spirited and pulsating mid-tempo blues. Lorber explains, “Blues is a huge part of our music and I think Andy really brings it home with his approach to the melodies and his solos.” Saxophonist Dave Mann offers a vibrant, smoothly executed and feel-good horn arrangement on this track as well as six others. “The shout chorus on ‘Prototype’ is great,” comments Lorber. “I’m glad to also feature guitarist Michael Thompson who plays a stellar solo on the end of the song.” Prototype also showcases the jubilant shuffle “Test Drive,” which serves up a thrilling rock section and finds Lorber doing double duty as he plays not only keys but guitar as well. He reflects, “A shuffle is something I can’t remember writing or recording since Kenny G’s first album. I think the title is great because to me it does have that sound of driving on a beautiful day on the Pacific Coast Highway here in Southern California.”
 
Jeff Lorber’s Fusion harness the fire and soul of Tower of Power (TOP) on the relentless, soulful and driving “What’s The Deal.” “The title is an inside joke and comes from something studio musician Mike Landau sometimes likes to say. Dave Mann’s horn arrangement is stellar and I’m playing the B3 on this,” says Lorber. “It’s fun to change up my sound and it seems to fit with the TOP influence. Andy takes over and once again injects the track with his unique combination of chops and jazzy and bluesy playing.” Lorber pays homage to Austria’s capital, famous for its waltzes with a catchy ditty in 3/4 called “Vienna.” “It is a beautiful city with a great jazz club (Porgy and Bess) that we like to play,” says Lorber. “This song has more of a bebop feeling and it’s a chance for Andy, Larry (Koonse) and I to show off some of our jazz cops especially when we are trading four’s at the end.” 

Larry Koonse, who is the guitarist heard soloing on the track, has played on Lorber’s last four recordings. “Larry is a very musical player who brings straight ahead point of view,” shares Lorber. “He also plays on ‘Vienna’ and ‘Hidden Agenda.’ I enjoy having him represent the bebop side of the music we play.” A standout on Prototype is the show-stopper, “The Badness,” which is a beautiful showcase for Lorber who shines as he cuts loose on his newly purchased and refurbished 1972 Fender Rhodes. “Hidden Agenda” is a memorable and swooning R&B flavored number while “Gucci’s” house groove revs us into high gear with an unforgettable and high octane performance and “Park West” demonstrates why Lorber is a master at creating nitty-gritty down-home grooves. Prototype comes to a rousing finale with the gorgeous ballad “River Song,” which calls to mind Lorber’s hit song “Anthem For A New America.” “‘River Song” sort of wrote itself in a little burst of inspiration,” recalls Lorber. “I wasn’t really expecting it. Gary gets to really show his jazz finesse here with the drum part.”

Jeff Lorber’s Fusion came to life in the 70s when the pianist attended Berklee College of Music. “I was listening to Miles Davis and Bitches Brew and the beginning of great fusion bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and Return to Forever,” reflects Lorber. “There were also artists like Herbie Hancock, The Crusaders and Grover Washington, who pioneered a more melodic and funky type of sound. Not to mention the fantastic music being made in R&B and pop music like Earth Wind and Fire and Tower of Power.” Lorber envisioned Jeff Lorber Fusion a second generation to these fusion bands that were more R&B and melody oriented. 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 originally came from there.” 

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 1986 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 for the likes of 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 Shanchie 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. 

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 11+ 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.” Lorber, a self-professed enthusiast of podcasts, audio books, Spotify, YouTube and Apple Music concludes, “Since I had the transplant I focus on doing things that I enjoy and that are meaningful. I try to make the most of each day and to be productive and make great music.” There lies the Prototype for a beautiful life.


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