Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Jeff Lorber Fusion: Step It Up

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

On initial airing, veteran keyboardist Jeff Lorber’s latest sounds suspiciously like something you might hear on the phone while waiting for an insurance claim to be processed. But give this music a little more time than however long it takes for the next operator to become available and greater intricacies of texture and groove reveal themselves. The fourth collaboration between Lorber and bassist Jimmy Haslip since they decided to revive the long-dormant Fusion band name in 2010, Step It Up leans heavy on funk, dialing down the rock overtones of its predecessor, 2013’s Hacienda. Melodies are boppish and David Mann’s horn arrangements nod to the swing era, but steady backbeats and glossy production root these 11 tracks firmly in ’70s electric jazz-the kind of stuff Lorber played in his first Fusion era.

Lorber and Haslip (the sole constants here among a revolving crew of session aces that includes saxophonist Gary Meek, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta) acquit themselves admirably throughout. Haslip’s basslines manage to anchor the compositions while remaining bubbly and pliable. And Lorber is consistently incisive, whether he’s tossing spooky Minimoog interpolations into the outro of “Get Up,” stoking the rhythm with McCoy Tyner-esque block chords on “Fire Spirit” or engaging in high-velocity Fender Rhodes action on “Soul Party.” Two of Haslip’s former Yellowjackets compadres shine in cameo roles: saxophonist Bob Mintzer graces “Mustang” with some striking chromatic cascades, while guitarist Robben Ford effortlessly combines the bluesy and the abstract-truthy on “Deep Green.”

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published