Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Perhaps keyboard maestro Jeff Lorber does tight, vibrant, in the pocket smooth jazz better than anyone else on the scene today. In production terms much the same can be said of Rex Rideout so when a project comes along on which they both collaborate then it’s certainly time to sit up and take notice. Enter Lorber’s brand new album Heard That which, as well as being full of all the good stuff that he and Rideout are guaranteed to bring, also features a veritable clutch of breathtaking guest performances.
Of course Lorber has been on the cutting edge of contemporary jazz since the release of the self titled debut album from the Jeff Lorber Fusion in 1977. As a producer he has helped fashion the careers of jazz luminaries such as Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Eric Marienthal while as a solo artist he has delivered a sequence of totally memorable collections of which this latest offering finds him at his fusion soaked best.
Lorber’s hip take on the familiar Amy Winehouse song ‘Rehab’ adds to rather than takes away from the original. It’s already making an impression on the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio but genuine Lorber fans will be wowed by the riches that lay elsewhere. A case in point is the groove drenched title tune that is co-written by Lorber and Eric Darius. Driven along by Gerald Albright on alto sax it is a wonderful showcase for Lorber’s keyboard talents whilst when he is joined by Rick Braun on trumpet and the wonderful Alex Al on bass the result is the melodically rhythmic ‘Don’t Hold Back’. The retro buzz of ‘Gamma Rays’ comes courtesy of Gary Meek on flute. In every respect this is a cut that evokes contemporary jazz the way it used to be and is one of several tracks mixed by Paul Brown and his Pro-Tools sidekick DC. This pairing again adds a splash of their special magic to the complex and jazzy ‘The Bomb’ which fizzes in a way that only Lorber’s music can. In fact this and five other songs are written by the Lorber – Rideout combination and, truth to tell, every of them is a gem. An understated vocal from Chelsea Nicole anchors the slinky ‘Don’t Stop’ and the pleasingly mid tempo ‘Take Control’ is also dappled with cool vocals that this time come from Lauren Evans. ‘Night Sky’ is clearly one of the albums very best tracks and in the groove from the ‘get go’ yet just shading it as Secret Garden favourite is ‘You Got Something’. With a lavish veneer of horns from Gary Meek and Ron King, a mid tempo vibe to die for plus the subtlest of vocals from Phillip ‘Taj’ Jackson, this could well be the hottest urban jazz cut of the year so far.
Heard That is Lorber’s debut on Peak Records and was released across the USA on September 30. It comes highly recommended. For more go to www.lorber.com.Posted by Denis Poole at October 25, 2008 6:30 PM