Contemporary Jazz

Now Hear This

09 SEP 08 JONATHAN WIDRAN

On Jeff Lorber's Peak debut Heard That, he takes a 180 degree turn from his previous album, the more serious jazz exploration He Had A Hat.

Over three decades after breaking ground as leader of the pioneering Jeff Lorber Fusion, the Philly-born and bred composer, producer and keyboard legend still believes in slammin' grooves, fresh vibes that draw from his instinctive old school sensibilities and the element of surprise.

The new collection has more of the classic Lorber approach: hard-hitting, focused and funky and multi-keyboard textured. Smooth jazz era fans of Lorber will dig his feisty collaborations with urban jazz powerhouse producer Rex Rideout, including the jamming opener "Come On Up," the slow jam ballad "You Got Something," the wild, brassy funk/fusion "The Bomb" and the sensual vocal track (with co-writer Lauren Evans) "Take Control." Lorber clearly has fun letting Rideout play keyboards alongside him on these tracks.

Lorber fans from back in the day will love the way "The Bomb," "Night Sky" and "Gamma Rays" hearken back to the crazy fusion flavors and jazzy chord changes of his 30-year-old classic LP Water Sign. The hands-down highlight is the swinging, Ramsey Lewis influenced bluesy-brass twist on Amy Winehouse's Grammy-winning "Rehab," which, interestingly enough, was added only at the last minute. Lorber makes some of his best decisions that way: his cover of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" from 2001's Kickin' It was also an afterthought and has since become a staple of his live shows and one of his biggest hits.