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Jeff Lorber: Chemistry in Fusion

Jim Worsley By

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AAJ: Chuck's loss is of course a sad one for the jazz world. Tell us about him in relationship to playing and working together.

JL: What Chuck and I mostly had in common is that we both focused a lot on writing and producing other artists. Chuck loved bebop and was incredibly proficient at playing standards, His writing showed a fantastic freedom with jazzy chromatic harmonies. He had a jazzier approach to rhythm where as he would lay out if I was playing rhythm. So both incredible guitarists, but very different in approach.

AAJ: I mentioned He Had A Hat. That's a strong transitional record.

JL: I made that record with my buddy Bobby Colomby. He had a lot to do with the writing and the direction. He pushed it into a jazzier feel. His main focus was that every song had to have some hip changes. We still play a bunch of songs from that album when we play live. We were fortunate to have a lot of great talent on that record. Hubert Laws, Gerald Albright, Abe Laboriel, Jr., Brian Bromberg, and Vinnie Colaiuta. More effort went into making that record than probably any other record I have made. It was a real concentrated time where both of us worked really hard to come up with some really cool stuff.

AAJ: So where did the name He Had A Hat come from?

JL: That's from the old joke. Are you familiar with that?

AAJ: No, I don't believe so.

JL: Well, the joke is that a Jewish grandmother goes to the beach with her daughter's son to take care of him and make sure nothing happens to him. A huge wave comes up and grabs Mikey and he disappears. Of course, the grandmother is distraught and looks at the sky and says. "Please God I will do anything, I will dedicate my life to being a better person, I will feed the poor, I will do anything just please, please, bring him back to me." All of a sudden there is another wave and Mikey is deposited back on the beach. She looks up at the sky and says, (Lorber now laughing) "He had a hat!"

AAJ: (Laughing out loud) Oh, that's very funny. Comes under the heading that some people are never satisfied. That's great. So changing gears, at one time you were pre-med at Boston University. So, in an alternate universe perhaps I would be speaking with Dr. Jeff Lorber?

JL: Well, maybe. I had talent for music. Chemistry was a lot harder. I had to stay up all night. I got through it, but not easily. Eventually when I moved to the Portland area the music scene was just so strong that I just sort of ditched the whole chemistry thing. In the big picture I think it helped me out because now in being a musician there is so much technology involved. Especially on the recording side. Figuring out the software and grasping it all, I believe, is easier with that training I had. It gave me a scientific approach to things. I think that indirectly that training has helped me out on the technology side.

AAJ: On the medical forefront, a few years back you suffered a life-threatening situation. I think it is very important that people know about PKD. If you don't mind sharing and talking about that and helping to create more awareness about it.

JL: Yeah, although a lot of people have PKD, which is polycystic kidney disease, it doesn't receive the publicity that it should. Especially when you consider that there are two hundred thousand people that have this disease, many of whom are on dialysis. It's one of those things where people look okay, so you think that maybe they aren't sick. But their kidneys are failing, and they are on dialysis. I was very fortunate to get a kidney transplant from my wife. That was nearly fifteen years ago, so I have been very lucky. I have been pretty much trouble free and been able to live a normal life. That's been a huge blessing and I am very grateful.

AAJ: PKD is a genetic condition?

JL: Yeah, my mom had it, and both of my daughters have it. The thing is that it doesn't necessarily affect you until you get to a certain age. My grandmother was lucky. My mom's mom lived into her eighties with her kidneys still working. With my mom, it affected her in her mid-forties. It's kind of a genetic programming mistake and what happens is that it starts to make cysts. Eventually those cysts grow, and they inhibit your kidney from functioning properly. So that's the deal. I was very lucky to get a transplant.

AAJ: What is being done to eradicate or better treat this condition?

JL: There is a PKD Foundation that has many people working on experiments and research. I very much support that organization. Unfortunately, there hasn't been any huge breakthroughs yet, but there are many things that are in the offering for the future. So, of course, we have a positive outlook and are very hopeful for that.

AAJ: Well, let's hope so. To be honest, I only recently became aware of PKD. I felt like it was important to get that message and information out there, so I very much appreciate you talking about it.

JL: Well, I appreciate that you are doing that. That's really great. Thank you for that.

AAJ: Getting back to your music. As if you don't have enough going on, I do believe you have a project with Mike Stern in the works. What can you tell us about that?

JL: As a matter of fact, we just wrapped up the last song today. We were supposed to hand it in today, but that's not going to happen. But most certainly by next week. It's really been fun. It's really been different to work with Mike. Mike has much more of a rock and bebop edge than I normally do. I mean Mike is really a badass player. He is kind of on the left and the right of what I normally do, so, yeah, it's been a whole lot of fun working with him. We have a whole bunch of dates coming up and I am really looking forward to playing with him.

AAJ: Yeah, badass is about right to describe Stern. A phenomenal cat. Big fan of his music and of Leni Stern's (Mike's wife) music as well.

JL: Oh well, Leni is on one song on the record too. A very beautiful piece that has kind of a modal type of sound. As for Mike, you are probably familiar with an album he did with The Yellowjackets a few years back.

AAJ: Yes, Lifecycle. A very nice record.

JL: Yeah, it was very successful and a fun record. So sometimes he is looking to reinvent himself. This has been a challenge and it's been fun. Everybody I have talked to about it has become immediately interested and knew it would be something different and cool.

AAJ: So, with Dave Weckl and Jimmy Haslip on board, there will be both a tour and a new record?

JL: Yes, I wrote six songs and Mike wrote five. Actually, most of my songs I co-wrote with Jimmy Haslip. It's an eleven-song album that we coincidentally are calling 11.

AAJ: When does that come out?

JL: I believe in September.
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