Jeff Lorber Fusion Energizes Art Porter Benefit
We last saw Jeff Lorber in 2014 at A Work of Art – the week-long fundraiser for Art Porter Music Education – as one of three featured artists, with Everette Harp and Paul Jackson Jr. being the two others.
Now he returns with his band, Jeff Lorber Fusion, for the main concert of A Work of Art on Saturday in the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Center.
The Philadelphia-born keyboardist, composer, producer, and Grammy winner brings with him a resume that began with this band, which made its debut album in 1977. More Fusion albums followed — along with solo projects. by Lorber, beginning with “It’s a Fact” in 1982.”
Along the way, Lorber and his band delighted audiences with classic, elegant offerings such as “Tune 88,” a relaxing number with light, quivering percussion. “Rain Dance”, a majestic and sinuous composition enriched with horns. “Wizard Island”, one of the best showcases of Lorber’s skills. His instrumental version of “Ain’t Nobody” by Chaka Khan.https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/jul/31/jeff-lorber-fusion-jazzes-up-art-porter-benefit/”Down Low”, a head swing enriched with organ. “Chinese Medicinal Herbs”, a lively and upbeat number that pays homage to traditional jazz while offering an audio version of the title’s healing powers.
In a 1993 Democrat-Gazette article about his appearance in Little Rock that year, Lorber is described as “one of the first names linked to the ‘fusion’ movement which combined elements of rock or pop with jazz “. He is generally considered a gateway to the genre known as smooth jazz. But Lorber — who on his website Lorber.com names Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea as major influencers — prefers the term “contemporary jazz.”
“Smooth Jazz is a radio format more than a musical description,” he says. “But what we do is melodic, funky and draws a lot from the more traditional ‘straight-ahead jazz’ in terms of improvisation and harmony. I’m a big blues fan, and that’s definitely part of it.”
FRIEND OF THE ARTS
Memories of his close friendship with the late Art Porter Jr. led Lorber to once again title A Work of Art.
“I had the chance to produce material on three different records with him, two of them entirely, and I was really impressed by his talent as both a sax virtuoso and a composer,” recalls Lorber. “He was also a lovely guy.”
In fact, Lorber was in Thailand with Porter the day before the crash that took his life.
“I’m really glad I was asked to be involved in this concert, and I’d be happy to do anything to keep Art’s memory and music alive.”
Throughout his career spanning more than four decades, Lorber has tried to stay true to his primary musical focus.
“I try to make it funky and fun to listen to for both serious jazz fans and everyone else,” he says. “However, over the years so much has changed.”
His band got their start playing the club scene in Portland, Oregon. “Since moving to Los Angeles in 1980, I’ve had the good fortune to become a successful studio musician and producer, so I’ve learned a lot. The musicians I play with now are class professionals. world, including the group I’m taking to Little Rock.” And of course, his songwriting and production have reflected the drastic changes in recording technology and musical styles over the years.
“The whole world has since changed in so many ways, but one thing I like to keep is playing fun, entertaining music that people can stomp their feet to.”
There is a long list of renowned artists with whom Lorber has collaborated or served as a producer, including Gerald Albright, Herb Alpert, Eric Benet, Rick Braun, Michael Franks, Dave Koz and Kenny G, featured via the album “Wizard Island” from Fusion in 1980.
[RELATED: Art Porter Music Education benefit concerts set for this week]
Lorber’s favorite fellow musicians to work with include jazz trumpeter Alpert. They have collaborated on and off over the past two decades.
“As a 10-year-old kid, I was a fan of his song ‘The Lonely Bull’ – the first record I ever bought – and I’m really inspired to work with this guy who is 86 and has as much enthusiasm for life and music as ever,” says Lorber.
Koz and Franks, as well as Tower of Power, are also among his favorites.
What is the composition for which Lorber is best known, for which he receives the most requests to play?
“My song ‘Tune 88’ is kind of a jazz standard,” he replies, naming “Katherine,” a dreamy-eared smoothie, and “PCH (Pacific Coast Highway)” — a perfect number to play in his car. while navigating the iconic California State Route 1 – like two other popular creations he wrote. “Also, my composition ‘Rain Dance’ has become something of a hip-hop anthem” sampled by Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and the late Notorious BIG
Lorber’s work has also been background music on The Weather Channel; his composition “Santa Monica Triangle”, from the 2005 album “Flipside”, appears on “The Weather Channel Presents: The Best of Smooth Jazz” and “The Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II”.
It was a relationship, Lorber says, that he did not initiate. “I guess they liked my music and started playing it,” he says.
Lorber is a longtime Grammy nominee, but the award eluded him until his seventh nomination. Jeff Lorber’s album “Prototype” Fusion won the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album 2018 category.
“It was quite exciting. It was unexpected,” Lorber recalled. “Of course it’s great to be recognized by your peers. But having a life in music, doing something that I love so much, is really its own reward.”
Lorber is looking forward to his band including tracks from Art Porter Jr. in their Saturday set. Apart from that, they will deliver favorites from old and new material. Fans of The Weather Channel and buyers of the channel’s aforementioned jazz album will be treated to “Rain Dance,” he reveals.
“I can’t wait to get back to Little Rock and see some of my friends there.”