With its unique brand of fusion jazz, the music of Jeff Lorber has, over the years, transcended musical boundaries. By the late 70’s Lorber had already made a name for himself with his genre crossing sounds that contained elements of jazz, rock, R&B, and funk. This fusion won over a whole host of new listeners whilst later, Lorber’s popular ‘Rain Dance’, from his 1979 compilation ‘Water Sign’, found new life when sampled for mixes in the worlds of R&B and rap. It is something the artist says he is pleased about. "I feel great about it. I play the tune a lot live and the arrangement we do is like the rap version: It’s minimalistic and doesn’t quite have the same chords. I like it when people recognize it."
These days Lorber has dropped the term ‘fusion’ from his billing but provides a generous helping of fusion beats with his new project ‘Now Is The Time’ where his older work keeps company with six fresh sounds. Asked if there was a difference between this remake and the originally recorded tracks, Lorber explained that one thing they share is how the basic tunes were recorded live in the studio for a ‘band sound’. Some of the songs, he said, have been radically reworked; others haven't changed. The idea for the current CD actually came together while Lorber and his band were touring in Europe. During their time there the promoter was referring to the band as the Jeff Lorber Fusion and in Europe they really liked it. "I don’t know how it came about exactly. We sort of had the idea of doing a Jeff Lorber CD and thought it would be fun to revisit some of the earlier songs. With all the experience I have had, the benefit of modern technology and with the help of some good players I took a fresh look at it. The record sort of represents a reinvention of the old songs and the new ones that fit in with it."
The result is an engaging compilation that finds Lorber working with producers Bobby Columby and Jimmy Haslip. Columby is a founder member of the group Blood, Sweat & Tears and has also produced a number of CD’s for Chris Botti. As Lorber explained, the selection of the old songs chosen for the album did not happen by mistake: "I had made eighteen solo records since the first in 1976 and I think only six of those include Jeff Lorber Fusion songs. It’s a combination of some songs that were well known, like for example ‘Water Sign’ which I covered a few years ago."
Lorber added that they also chose songs that were fun to record and play live. ‘Now Is The Time’ includes the familiar hip-shaking strains of ‘Rain Dance’ where the vocals of Barcelona born and Florida based Irene B really add something to this well known instrumental track. The fantastic musical voyage continues with ‘Dr. Moy’, the funky ‘Pixel’ and Wayne Shorter’s Weather Report classic ‘Mysterious Traveller’. Compared to the original, Lorber has optimized the tune to make it his very own. As he explained, "It’s hard to compete with the original version of this song because it’s so interesting. But our version is much funkier and hard hitting."
The unpretentious and sweet ‘Las Rosas’ allows Lorber on piano to get close up and personal while in complete contrast, ‘Black Ice’ from the 1978 release ‘Soft Space’ is also featured. It’s the kind of invigorating song that will get your morning started just right and another personal favorite is ‘Chinese Medicinal Herbs’ which Lorber describes as "really obscure. It’s adventurous, and because the song is perfect for his style, I got a great performance from Dave Weckl on drums."
Asked about his favorite tracks on ‘Now Is The Time’, Lorber said that both ‘Black Ice’ and ‘Chinese Medicinal Herbs’ get him excited. "I love the way they turned out. They have a lot of energy. That is sort of the theme of the whole album. There is exciting music here that has cool changes and rhythms. I hope that’s what people would feel when they hear my music."
For 2010 Lorber has a hectic schedule of concert dates that includes a tour to Europe, Germany and Italy plus, from June 4-6, a trip to the Capital Jazz Festival in DC. He will also be at the Syracuse Jazz Festival which takes place on June 25-27.
Visit Lorber’s website for full tour details.