Jazz Fusion is Passion & Play for Jeff Lorber

Keyboardist Jeff Lorber brings jazz fusion to life in "Galaxy." Photo Credit: Marina Chavez
Keyboardist Jeff Lorber brings jazz fusion to life in "Galaxy." Photo Credit: Marina Chavez

Keyboardist Jeff Lorber is a master at jazz fusion. To get to where he is today, Lorber watched and listened to the best at jazz fusion.  Along his journey of becoming one of the more dynamic jazz fusion artists on the scene today, Lorber was somewhat guided into the musical genre by the times of that era.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock were at the height of doing their thing in trying to break out of the standard jazz box. Both Corea and Hancock experimented incorporating other sounds into their music. As a member of Miles Davis’ band during the 1960s, Corea became an original birther of electric jazz fusion.

Also a Miles prodigy, Hancock took jazz fusion to another level when he scored big with the widely acclaimed record, “Future Shock.” Corea, Hancock and others led the way in jazz fusion. Lorber have embraced the concept wholeheartily.

“In the 70s, that’s when things started to really to get interesting where people were pushing the boundaries in a lot of ways, using R&B rhythms and rock rhythms, electric guitars, and kind of really changing things up,” Lorber said. “There was some really exciting music going on and they called fusion music because there was a lot of experimentation with others.

“The kind of fusion music I started doing…I was combining R&B and Latin and later, a little hip hop rhythms. But using the jazz vocabulary, the bebop vocabulary, as far as chords and solos and also adding quite a bit of focus to the music where you can hang your hat on the melodies-almost like a pop song in a way where you have memorable melodies added to your music.”

Lorber has a list of his own memorable melodies.  After receiving a Grammy nomination for his hit record, “Now is the Time,” Lorber unleashed the instrument-heavy “Galaxy“ earlier this year.  He’ll be bringing his jazz fusion tunes this Sunday to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles in a free community concert that is part of the Playboy Jazz Festival’s free community event series. The 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival takes place June 16 and June 17 at the Hollywood Bowl.

“People still love music, especially live music,” Lorber said. “Luckily, they’ll come out to plaza and hear me play.”

Jeff Lorber was heavily influenced by Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Photo Credit: Marina Chavez

Coming to hear Lorber would be a treat for those who love jazz.  Lorber’s style of music is not based solely on the tradition of jazz. It centers more on the avenues of funk, hip hop, R&B and Latin, fused into one melodic sound.  Thanks to Corea and Hancock looking into the future the way they did with all of their musical experimentation, Lorber said he was allowed to find his own niche in the jazz world.

“This is when all of this great stuff was going on-these experiments with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock and all this fusion music, I could not help but listen to this exciting fusion music that was happening,” Lorber said.  “When I started to put my own band together to make my own music, it was sort of natural to gravitate in that direction because of what kind of the music that was happening at that time. I was making music that reflected the time I started writing and recording.”

Lober loved music when he was growing up. But he couldn’t really hold a tune, so he fulfilled his musical dreams by hitting the keyboards. Jazz soon monopolized Lorber’s interest. Jazz became such a big part of Lorber’s life that at one point he refused to listen to any other form of music.

“As I began to learn more and more about jazz, I became a big fan of jazz,” Lorber said. “I actually became a big fan of jazz; I really didn’t want to listen to anything else. I became a little bit of a jazz snob for a while. I’m not like that anymore.”

Lorber may no longer be a self-described music snob; he is very in tune what he loves to listen to. And he loves the “Galaxy,” CD he believes ranks as one of his best work. With 24 records under his belt, Lorber said “Galaxy” stands out more than the others as a result of the bond create by the stellar musicians he collaborated with.

“It was fun to do,” Lorber said. “Every record I do, I always give it 100 percent. I always try to do the best I can. But unfortunately, after you make records-they don’t always necessarily live up to their expectations. Part of it is the chemistry that you create. It’s just the overall environment you get with all the musicians and their contributions.

“I’d have to say that I’m very happy with the way how this one turned out. I really think this is one of my favorite records that I’ve made. One of the best things about it for me is that so many songs are really, really fun to play live. I can see myself playing these songs for quite some time.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1212 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.