There’s a reason that keyboardist Jeff Lorber calls his band “fusion” and not “smooth.” While his music has been unfairly associated with ‘smooth jazz’ due to his one-time having Kenny G in his band, the fact is that Lorber has been one of the few artists still able to carry the mantle of what was once called “adult contemporary jazz,” meaning that it is accessible to most ears and still able to swing like a gate. His trio with drummer Gary Novak and long time buddy Jimmy Haslip on 6 stringed bass showed at the packed Baked Potato that you can make jazz smooth without playing “smooth jazz.”
Mixing music from his top selling album (Step It Up) as well as material from his widely encompassing career, Lorber sat behind the keyboards and mixed lyrical and catchy melodies such as “Hacienda” and “Surreptitious” with expansive and searching yet coherent solos. Novak’s work on the drum melded with Haslip’s patented finger picking to create irresistible funky backbeats on pieces like the rubbernecking ”He Had A Hat” that was both bathed in the blues but veering off into the ozone. The rapid fire “Montserrat” was whipped along like along by Novak’s hummingbird hand on the ride cymbal, and with Lorber’s solo excursions could have gone into spontaneous combustion but for Haslips deep rivulets of rhythm keeping everything into a pocket as deep as General Motors.
The musical and musical Billboard hit “Up On This” had Haslip and Novak snapping like snow peas together under Lorber’s infectious groove and melody, while other recent songs such as “Soul Party” cooked like a Famous Flame. Reaching back into the 80s, Lorber pulled out the bluesy strut of “Rain Dance” that sounds so timeless that it’s still being sampled by artists in the 21st century, while winding down the 80 minute set with material like the more recent “Underground” which is as enticing to the feet as to the ears.
Lorber and his trio showed that jazz is still alive and well in the City of Angels, and his brand of fun fusion is able to ride the tides of various short term trends, exposing most of the riders of the Wave to be mere hodads.
Upcoming shows at the Baked Potato include Brandon Fields Mar 04, Wesfest 11 Mar 06, Scott Henderson Mar 18 and Brian Auger Mar 24