Jeff Lorber
(Peak Records)

Jeff LorberOver three decades after breaking ground as leader of the pioneering Jeff Lorber Fusion, the Philly-born and bred composer, producer and keyboard legend is still keeping the vibes fresh and the grooves funky, inspiring contemporary jazz fans everywhere to exclaim with each new musical excursion: Yep, Heard That. On his highly anticipated Peak Records debut, Lorber keeps the soulful momentum going, collaborating brilliantly on pop, jazz, R&B and blues-influenced tracks--and even harkening back a bit to his early 80s Fusion heyday--with one of urban jazz’s top hit makers and sonic architects, Rex Rideout.

Highlighted by a swinging, bluesy-brass twist on Amy Winehouse’s Grammy winning “Rehab,” Heard That features a typically vibrant Lorber all-star guest list, including trumpet great Rick Braun, guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., saxman Gary Meek, bassist Alex Al, trumpeter Ron King, guitarist Darrell Crooks and Peak labelmates, guitarist Paul Brown and saxman Gerald Albright. Lorber has been touring all throughout 2008 as part of Guitars & Saxes with Albright, Peak labelmate Jessy J, Jeff Golub and Peter White. In ’07, he toured with two other Peak artists, Norman Brown and Peabo Bryson, on the latest rendition of Norman Brown’s Summer Storm tour.

Eager to return to his trademark R&B sound when he signed with Peak (after the more eclectic jazz approach he took to 2007’s He Had A Hat), Lorber immediately sought out Rideout, who has lent his Midas touch over the past ten years to a virtual who’s who of contemporary jazz and soul instrumentalists and vocalists: Albright, Braun, Elliot, Najee, Althea Rene, Boney James, Larry Carlton, Paul Taylor, Everette Harp, Najee, Kirk Whalum, Maysa, Will Downing, Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi. Lorber first worked with Rideout when Rideout produced his track “For You To Love” on the popular 2006 Luther Vandross Tribute Forever, For Always, For Luther, Vol. 2.

That exciting blues twist is also a prominent element in Lorber’s instantly infectious romp through “Rehab,” which was actually added to the set list of Heard That at the last minute—in much the same way as his cover of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody,” which has become a staple of his live shows, was a final stroke of brilliance on Kickin’ It. While most of Lorber’s previous recordings exclusively feature him on piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes and synthesizers, the playful spirit of the sessions for Heard That allowed for him to share the keys with Rideout, most notably on the old school soul-jazz jam opener “Come On Up” (highlighted by a swirl of Rhodes and piano with the Ron King/Gary Meek horn section and a crackling Paul Jackson, Jr. guitar solo); the cool, slow jam soul ballad “You Got Something” (which they wrote with featured vocalist Phillip “Taj” Jackson); the wild and soaring, brassy funk/fusion explosion not called “The Bomb” for nothing!; and the sensual vocal track “Take Control,” which blends a thick funk ballad rhythm and dark keyboard chordings with co-writer Lauren Evans’ dreamy vocals.

Lorber handles all the keyboard duties on the rest of the tracks, including “Rehab”; the lighthearted, easy rolling, piano-driven “Don’t Hold Back”; the percussive and whimsical, Lorber Fusion-influenced “Gamma Rays” (with Rick Braun on trumpet and Gary Meek on tenor sax and flute); the sly and sensual, bubbling bass and horn accented “Don’t Stop”; the vibrant up-tempo “Night Sky,” featuring Lorber’s bright piano melody and retro wah-wah guitar (a real guitar!); and the high energy, swinging funk/jazz title track closer which Lorber wrote with rising urban jazz star Eric Darius, with whom Lorber toured Indonesia and Japan in early 2008.

It goes without saying but we can say it anyway: As you’re grooving along to Jeff Lorber’s Peak Records debut, shout it out as loud as you can: I Heard That!




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- Jonathan Widran