By the late 1970s, trailblazing keyboardist/composer/producer Jeff Lorber had become a prominent figure in the new movement known as jazz fusion – a marriage of traditional jazz with elements of rock, R&B, funk and other electrified sounds. Lorber and his band, the Jeff Lorber Fusion, first honed their craft in the Portland, Oregon, club scene and rapidly expanded their reach to a national and international audience via a combination of complex harmonies, unconventional time signatures and compelling rhythms.
In subsequent years, Lorber dropped the term “fusion” from his billing as the movement evolved into what is currently known as contemporary jazz. Still, he continued to explore the innovative, improvisational potential of grafting other musical forms to the jazz idiom.
Nearly four decades after his earliest recordings, Lorber returns on September 25, 2015, with Step It Up on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group. The fourth consecutive collaboration between the GRAMMY®-nominated keyboardist and GRAMMY®-winning bassist/composer/producer Jimmy Haslip since the two virtuosos reactivated the Jeff Lorber Fusion five years ago, Step It Up features 11 new Lorber compositions, several co-written with Haslip. The longtime colleagues also co-produced the recording.
Assisting the pair is a team of world-class musicians, including two former bandmates of Haslip’s in the award-winning fusion band Yellowjackets: saxophonist Bob Mintzer and guitarist Robben Ford. Also lending a hand are drummers Ash Soan, Gary Novak and Vinnie Colaiuta; saxophonist Gary Meek and guitarists Michael Thompson and Paul Jackson Jr. David Mann provides horn arrangements and Lenny Castro percussion.
Stretching the envelope has been Lorber’s strategy from the very beginning. Born in Philadelphia in 1952, Lorber began playing piano when he was just four years old. By his teen years, he had hooked up with several local R&B bands, but his tastes trended more toward jazz when he studied at Berklee College of Music.
After college, he relocated to Portland, Oregon, where he formed the Jeff Lorber Fusion. The group released their self-titled debut album in 1977, and quickly became one of the most popular acts in the jazz fusion scene, due in large part to relentless touring and a string of artistically daring and commercially successful recordings.
The entity formerly known as the Jeff Lorber Fusion became Lorber’s solo career with the release of It’s a Fact in 1982. After a brief but prolific stretch culminating with the highly successful Private Passion in 1986, Lorber took a break from recording his own material, opting instead to do session work and produce other artists. He resumed his solo career in 1991 with Worth Waiting For, although he continued to produce for the remainder of the decade.
Lorber has been just as prolific and innovative in the new century as he was in the last, with recordings on Narada (Philly Style, Flip Side), Blue Note (He Had a Hat) and Peak (Heard That).