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Jeff Lorber: Chemistry in Fusion

Jim Worsley By

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AAJ: (Laughing) Yes, I recall those days as well.

JL: They weren't really paying attention. It worked for me!

AAJ: Growing up in our era, you had to also be exposed to The Beatles, and then hard rock, and prog rock, etc.

JL: I have to say that to this day that I am a huge, huge, Beatles fan. I just love their music so much. But when they first came out, I had two older sisters, and you know if my sisters liked them, then I just couldn't.

AAJ: Ah yes, having to be contrary, of course (laughing).

JL: (laughing) Yeah, but then I heard this record called "You Can't Do That" and that sold me.

AAJ: Oh yeah, what a great tune.

JL: Yeah, they made a great impression on me. When I was in high school all this great music was coming out. But whenever a Beatles record would come out everything would just stop. You would do nothing but listen to that record over and over again.

AAJ: Yes, I remember when The White Album came out. It was very much like that.

JL: Yeah man, just incredible. But then there was all this other stuff like The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and all that unbelievable stuff. I have to say, though, that when I went to the Berklee College of Music I kind of became a bebop snob. I kind of gave up all that and studied bebop. I really stopped paying attention to other stuff for a while. After graduating high school, I went to the Berklee not knowing at that point if I could make a living as a musician but I sure wanted to find out. I needed to learn the jazz vocabulary and how to play it. I will say that Berklee was a great school for that. It is kind of like a music vocational school. It is very practical. They give you tools to solve musical problems in a modern context. It was very much a 'learn this stuff and go get a job' kind of school. I studied with Madam Chaloff. She was amazing. Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea used to come in and take lessons from her. Also, Alex Elin was incredible too. He focused on transcribing Red Garland and Wynton Kelly solos from classic Miles Davis records. He really focused on the swing rhythm, essentially playing bass with his left hand. Swing is one of those things you arrive at and can't be learned in a linear fashion, Both of those teachers forced me to focus on real simple basics and conquering each thing before you moved on. That was a great way of learning. While I was at Berklee I started playing with John Scofield. He was a student there at the same time. It was obvious that he was very talented back then. Another guy I played with there was alto saxophonist Greg Hawkes. He took the one semester of keyboards that all horn players take and went on to be successful with The Cars.

AAJ: Congratulations on winning a Grammy for Prototype. How did it feel to hear your name called out?

JL: Thank you. Well, I had been nominated a few times, so I didn't expect to win. But by the same token, I felt like I had as good a chance as I ever had. Sometimes there would be one guy on the list that was just the favorite, or two smooth jazz albums would cancel each other out or whatever like that. But anyways, yeah, it was great. The Grammys were in New York that year. They are usually in Los Angeles, so it had a whole different feel to it. It was at Madison Square Garden. We had a good time.

AAJ: Do you feel sometimes like it is a bit random? I mean, you had done other albums previously that had the goods and indeed were nominated. Then your follow up to Prototype, Impact, in my estimation, is at least as good as Prototype.

JL: I agree with you there. I think that is a solid record. You're right that sometimes it can be right place at the right time.

AAJ: Most fusion artists, or really any artists, have a signature recognizable sound. There is a sound that comes into your head immediately if someone says David Sanborn, or Led Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd, or John Coltrane. Not so much the case with JLF. There's significant variance from Impact to Jazz, Funk, Soul to He Had A Hat, or all the way back to "Funky Gospel." So, having prefaced it, my question is, have you always had a multi-directional plan or approach, or have you more or less just followed your muse, done your own thing, and it has just kind of worked out that way?

JL: I would say it is more of the latter. It kind of worked out that way. All those things that you mentioned are all my point of view. Melodies are important. Cool changes are important. Funky grooves are important. Those are some of the things you are always going to hear in my music. I always try to listen to what is going on now and try to find things that are new and interesting. Stuff that I can kind of play with and put into my laboratory. Then put my approach to it and see what comes out. I think that is something that helps keep me inspired and hopefully keeps my music fresh. One thing I do is to listen to the new music Friday on Spotify. I listen to it every week. Usually like maybe two hundred songs. If I am lucky, I hear three to six or seven songs that for some reason or another inspire me. Whether it's a cool groove or some cool changes. I just listen and I think eventually some of those ideas sort of filter though. I'm also a fan of old music. I have a very large collection of R&B, jazz, and fusion artists that I listen to on a regular basis. I get as much inspiration from listening to that as I do from the new stuff.

AAJ: Which artists are among those favorites from the past?

JL: Well, certainly Herbie. Starting, in particular, with the Headhunters and through the eighties. Chick, of course, as well. Also, a big fan of Keith Jarrett. His music is not quite as relevant to what I am doing, but I just love what he plays. I have a jazz sort of chill out thing that has a lot of Miles Davis on it. The earlier stuff in particular with Wynton Kelly or with Red Garland. I'm a big Joe Henderson fan. His Pursuit of Darkness album and some of the other stuff on Milestone Records. I like Weather Report and The Crusaders. All the Return to Forever stuff, like Spanish Heart. I also like a lot of classic rock. I listen to Led Zeppelin. It's funny how some music holds up better than others. Zeppelin sounds as good today, or better, than it did when it was recorded. So much other great music that I can't really think of it all right now when I am on the spot. But I take in a lot. I am all over the place and appreciate a lot of different music.

AAJ: That includes the multi rooted Jazz, Funk, Soul trilogy (to date) records with Everette Harp and, originally Chuck Loeb. How was the feel of the first record without Loeb, replaced by Paul Jackson Jr after Loeb passed away?

JL: Paul and i have worked since the early '80s as rhythmic section mates on R&B and pop records. So we have a great chemistry playing together in that way. We lock into some great rhythms together. Paul is one if the most recorded guitarits in studio work history and has a very recognizable sound.
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