After the initial shock subsided, Jeff Lorber must have chuckled at least a bit when his name was called as the winner of the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album Grammy for 2017’s Prototype. It was the keyboardist and composer’s first win, arriving some four decades and several nominations after his first release with the group he dubbed Jeff Lorber Fusion. Frankly, not all that much had changed since the start, so why the interminable delay? Was it the loaded “Fusion” designation that threw the Academy off? In any case, the award surely provided some validation, although the artist’s many fans have never needed convincing; they’ve been loyal all along.
Space-Time doesn’t move the needle far from where it’s long been either. Its 11 tracks, most written wholly or in part by Lorber, display laudable songcraft and impeccable musicianship, while making no overt effort to be revolutionary. The core band—featuring bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Gary Novak—is augmented here by guests including saxophonist Bob Mintzer, guitarist Robben Ford, saxophonist/bassist Gerald Albright and, notably, flutist Hubert Laws, whose performance on “Chick,” a tribute to the late Mr. Corea, is unsurprisingly stellar.
Other tracks run the gamut from the somewhat manicured funk of the title track to the forward thrust of “Memorex” (powered by Albright’s throbbing bass guitar) to the more chill “Day One,” a summery delight made all the more shimmering by Michael Landau’s guitar lines. Ford’s guitar also livens things up considerably on the tracks “Mind Reader” and “Curiosity,” moving the band out of its comfort zone long enough to suggest there’s still more that can be done within the format. Jeff Lorber Fusion, by any measure, remains reliably accomplished in execution, and Space-Time is, if not remotely a game-changer, an impressive addition to their discography.