On his last record, 2010’s Now Is the Time, Jeff Lorber reclaimed the long-lost “fusion” part of his band name and brand identity. With Bobby Colomby and Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip co-producing, the keyboardist and composer deemphasized smooth-jazz values in favor of his old approach, which split the difference between vintage jazz-rock fusion and punchy grooves rooted in funk and R&B.
Lorber, with Haslip again co-producing and many of the same musicians in tow, including drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. and saxophonist Eric Marienthal, deploys a similar strategy on the all-instrumental Galaxy, his 22nd album as a leader since making his debut in 1977. As with Now Is the Time, he takes the opportunity to revisit old gems, including the rising-and-falling “Wizard Island”; the pulsating “The Samba,” featuring a fluid guitar solo by Larry Koonse; “City” (co-written by Haslip), with its sticky rhythms and catchy melody; and “The Underground,” bolstered with a sprawling solo by trumpeter Randy Brecker.
For “Horace,” Lorber nods to a key influence, pianist and composer Horace Silver, although the tune’s long-limbed, twisting melody isn’t much reminiscent of Silver’s tunes; the homage comes by way of some soul-jazz colors and good intentions. And “Montserrat,” also co-written with Haslip, is a pumping, funky piece inspired by the 1980 Police hit “When the World Is Running Down.” The track features Marienthal, on alto, and Lorber, on Fender Rhodes, piano and Minimoog, turning in their most impressive work. Lorber’s back, and it’s almost like he never left.