Following a artistically expressive detour with He Had a Hat, former fusion heavyweight and current smooth jazz heavyweight Jeff Lorber picked the right person to co-produce his new CD: Rex Rideout, a hit-making machine for Boney James and Will Downing, among others. It’s a brilliant return to Lorber’s strength with its bluesy fusion, cool harmonies and plenty of solo keys runs of the kind (listen to “Don’t Hold Back”) that make him the most in-demand contemporary jazz session player.
Heard That certainly bops along with an R&B bent (Chelsea Nicole’s vocal refrain on “Don’t Stop” charms a tripped-out tune with a cheeky Ray Charles funk guitar line) but more than that it hearkens to Lorber’s fusion days. This is the kind of contemporary jazz in rare form now: expertly crafted compositions that showcase musicianship while never being off-putting to the point of distraction. You can play it loud and your neighbors won’t think you’re a geek. (Although a fun run through Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” mixed by Paul Brown with trumpet from Rick Braun, might raise a few eyebrows.)
Jeff Lorber at the top of his 21st-century fusion form? I heard that.