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Jeff Lorber Fusion - 'Now Is the Time'

Jeff Lorber FusionJeff Lorber’s vision was for “a return to the sound of the Jeff Lorber Fusion, but informed by everything I’ve learned since then.” “Then” was largely the mid-1970s and very early 1980s, when the keyboardist and composer helped pioneer a commercially successful synthesis of jazz, funk and rock. Later, Lorber’s solo music was largely R&B-inflected smooth jazz.

This CD – the first JLF release since 1981’s “Galaxian” – refashions some of the group’s earlier tunes with a new lineup, including saxophonist Eric Marienthal, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Jimmy Haslip (a co-producer), and drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl. Add the Blood, Sweat & Tears Horns and sweet-voiced BarceIona-born vocalist Irene B, who’s featured on four of the 11 tracks, most notably the airy “Rain Dance/Wanna Fly” (check out Brecker’s fluid horn) from 1979’s “Water Sign” LP and the super-smooth R&B ballad “Curtains/Before We Go,” where Marienthal’s sax shines.

Lorber, who once thought he sounded too much like a sideman on some of his releases, remains in the forefront without always occupying center stage – on Fender Rhodes electric piano, Hammond B-3 organ or acoustic piano. On the fusion anthem “Black Ice,” for instance, Lorber plays Fender Rhodes and gets in an acoustic solo, with Marienthal’s sax and Haslip’s bass in tandem.

Two funky tracks recall the R&B energy of Lorber’s 2008 “Heard That” release: “Dr. Moy,” where Lorber goes to town on the Hammond B-3, aided by Lenny Castro (percussion) and Marienthal (alto sax); and the rocking “Pixel,” with Haslip’s bass connecting Lorber’s Fender Rhodes and

Marienthal’s sax. The Weather Report classic “Mysterious Traveler” gets a heavier, way-out treatment.

This is a successful endeavor, thanks in part to newer technology. It captures the improvisational energy of fusion, while infusing more jazz and R&B into Lorber’s tunes.

– Marvin Leon Lake

Tracks to download  “Dr. Moy,” “Curtains/Before We Go”

In concert as part of Norfolk Jazz Festival; 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Town Point Park. $28. (757) 441-2345.

Buy "Now Is the Time" (Link goes to Amazon.com)

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