For a while, Jeff Lorber operated without the word
“fusion” being part of his group name. A pioneer of the music that
blends jazz with elements of pop, rock, R&B or other genres, Lorber has
reclaimed the moniker, emphasizing the merging of styles with Jeff
Lorber Fusion’s Hacienda (Heads Up, 2013).
Though billed primarily as a trio of Lorber, keyboards and guitars,
co-producer Jimmy Haslip, bass, and Eric Marienthal, saxophone, this
incarnation of Jeff Lorber Fusion is more of a quintet with drummer
Vinnie Colaiuta appearing on nine of the 11 tracks, and percussionist
Lenny Castro on seven. Other contributors are Paul Jackson Jr., Michael
Thompson and Larry Koonse, guitars; David Mann, horn arrangements; and
isolated appearances by other musicians.
“Corinaldo” opens the set. It’s a high-energy groove with Paul Jackson
Jr. providing guitar and David Mann the horn arrangement, section
saxophones, brass and flutes. Haslip’s bass line punctuates the entire
piece, with Colaiuta and Castro kicking it. Lorber plays keyboard and
guitar, but it’s his keys that carry the song. Marienthal engages in a
bit of call and response with the ensemble.
Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty steps in for the arrangement of Frank Zappa’s
“King Kong,” a 6/8 piece that also has Ed Mann on marimba.
With Lorber firmly out front, and an assist by guitarist Michael
Thompson, Colaiuta and Haslip offer the more engaging parts of this
selection. Though mostly in the background, the drums and bass put their
own marks, setting the rhythm but also stretching out just a bit.
Ponty’s solo is intense. Regardless of who has the lead at any given
moment, there is always plenty happening in the background, making “King
Kong” one of the more enjoyable tracks on an album loaded with
Born in Philadelphia, Lorber began playing piano at the age of four. By
his teen years, he had hooked up with several R&B bands, but he shifted
to jazz upon studying at Berklee College of Music.