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Mace & Crown | March 21, 2018

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Time to ‘Step It Up’ with Jeff Lorber Fusion

Time to ‘Step It Up’ with Jeff Lorber Fusion

Adam Flores
Staff Writer

The Attucks Theatre in Downtown Norfolk has seen iconic jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday grace its stage. The historic landmark came alive once again on Oct. 9 with a performance by Smooth and Contemporary Jazz group, Jeff Lorber Fusion.

Jeff Lorber, the Grammy-nominated keyboardist, composer and producer, is currently on tour promoting his latest album, “Step It Up,” which was released on Sept. 25. With live performances of new compositions such as “Get Up,” “Up On This” and “Soul Party,” Lorber continues to push the threshold of his unique, funky sound.

Lorber was accompanied on stage by an all-star lineup. This included Grammy-winning bassist, composer, and producer Jimmy Haslip, one of the founding fathers of the jazz fusion group, Yellowjackets. Rounding out the quartet was veteran tenor and soprano saxophonist Andy Snitzer and session ace Gary Novak on drums.

The fusion quartet will be covering a lot of ground within the next few months touring the US and abroad. With the current resurgence of jazz here in the U.S., it’s Europe that continually draws in many Western jazz artists.

“There are a network of jazz clubs all over Europe that support the music and also in the summertime, there are many big jazz festivals in beautiful venues. In general, there is more appreciation for classical music and jazz,” Lorber said.

Considering the sociopolitical state of music today, Lorber added his concern regarding the American view of the arts.

“The [European] states in a huge way support the arts in general in a way that we don’t. Europe has socialism so support for music isn’t based solely on commerce,” Lorber said.

As the core of Jeff Lorber Fusion, both Lorber and Haslip share songwriting and producing credits on “Step It Up.” This is Haslip’s fourth collaboration with Lorber which started in 2010 with the release of “Now Is The Time.”

“I have a lot of admiration for Jimmy and his talents and we make a good team together. I like to collaborate,” Lorber said.

Lorber got his start in the music business in 1974 which led to his self-titled, debut jazz fusion record in 1977, “The Jeff Lorber Fusion.” Reflecting on his own music abilities is what led him into a deep passion for jazz fusion, a mixture of jazz with elements of funk, rock, and R&B.

“I’m not a very good singer and I loved music so this is the way I found to express myself,” Lorber said.

As Lorber continues to evolve as an instrumentalist to this day, his list of influences isn’t short.

“I’m a big fan of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett. Other musicians who have been influential are Tower of Power, James Brown, Earth Wind and Fire, Joe Henderson, Weather Report and Miles Davis to name a few,” Lorber said.

Collaboration has seen Lorber with many great names in the music business over the past four decades. “Step It Up” sees the tradition continue for the versatile keyboardist as he enlisted the help of guitarist Robben Ford, saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta to name a few.

“The record embodies the musical goals that Jimmy and I have in mind which are freshness, funkiness, a sense of surprise and a rich satisfying harmonic and melodic experience with some inspired soloing,” Lorber said.