Jeff Lorber has remained one of the major jazz/funk keyboard players whose continued through the smooth jazz era by remaining consistently funky. Music will always change. And artists will have to change with it. Lorber has realized that as long as he keeps the rhythms tough and strong,and his solos jazzy and hummable,that the jazz/funk/fusion sound he’s now a veteran of,he can modernize his sound but keep its basic flavors intact. This is something he’s shown with his recent comebacks. On the other hand,his grooves hit a fevered pitch in the early 1980’s.
About 12 years ago when discovering Jeff Lorber’s albums from approximately 1980 to 1986, it came to me how much he was able to do with in the time period when analog based synthesizers were transitioning to digital ones. This also arrived at the same time that the Jeff Lorber Fusion were beginning to focus on heavy rhythm along with improvised instrumental soloing. That played a big part in their final album together for almost 30 years entitled Galaxian. The opening track of this album is one of the best examples of this that I can think of. It was called “Monster Man”.
The thick drums and slap bass start out the song before a fruity voice does a short rap at the beginning-while the bass burbles with an accenting rhythm guitar beneath him. After this,Donnie Gerrard’s vocals come in. And each of his vocals lines is accented by the horn charts from Jerry Hey. This represents the chorus of the song. On the refrains,Lorber’s keyboards lead a group lead the harmony vocals. On the bridge of the song,the drums take on a Brazilian flavor as the slap bass gets a duetting solo from non other than Stanley Clarke himself before the song fades out on the main theme.
‘Monster Man” is indeed a heavy funk monster. The bass leads the way from beginning to end. And the entire song never takes its eyes off the groove. I dare say it is the most thoroughly funky song Jeff Lorber made in the 1980’s. I’m not entirely sure if Stanley Clarke plays all the bass lines here,or is accompanying bassist Danny Wilson (who plays on the rest of the album) on this song. Either way,its still one of those “bass in your face” songs where the funk is very accessible to identify. Since Lorber is celebrating his birthday today,this is just the song I’d personally chose to represent his groove.
Filed under 1980's, Donnie Gerrard, drums, horns, jazz funk, Jeff Lorber, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Jerry Hey, rhythm guitar, slap bass, Stanley Clarke, synthesizer
Jeff Lorber is another example of how Philadelphia remains one of the East Coast’s most musical cities. He released his first two albums as a bandleader with The Jeff Lorber Fusion in 1977 and 1978-the later of which featured guest appearances from jazz fusion luminaries in Miles Davis alumni Chick Corea and Corea’s own protege Joe Farrell. Following signing to Arista in 1979 and his label debut Water Sign,Lorber bough in Seattle saxophonist Kenny Gorelick for their 1980 album Wizard Island. Gorelick would pursue a solo career a few years later under his better known moniker of Kenny G.
The first time I ever heard the name Jeff Lorber was when DC native musician/DJ Nigel Hall loaned me his copy of Lorber’s 1983 solo album In The Heat Of The Night. Being that period was also my early years on the internet,there was the ability for me to go out and research Lorber’s music further. And then purchase albums that looked interesting. One such purchase,made on Ebay was a vinyl copy of the 1980 Jeff Lorber Fusion album Galaxian. It was filled with strong grooves. And one that still stands out for me was co-written by Kenny Gorelick. It was called “Spur Of The Moment”.
The groove starts right off cold with driving 4/4 beat. The chorus features Gorelick playing the singable funky melody on his processed sax. Below this,Lorber comes in with a snaky synth bass while Marlon McClain comes in with a high pitched rhythm guitar. On the refrains,Lorber brings it on home on the electric piano with Gorelick’s bluesy exchanges. On the bridge,Lorber plays a heavy melodic synthesizer improvisation over a full electric bass. On the final choruses of the song,Lorber plays this synth solo and a honky tonk electric piano call and response with a full horn section before the song fades out.
The ultra melodic jazz/funk/pop style instrumentation and melody of this song is right in line with the streamlined sound Quincy Jones was getting with the Westlake studio crew at the same time. Yet with Gorelick’s brittle,succinct solos on his processed wah wah sax (as well as the somewhat stripped down rhythm) put this song right into the boogie/post disco funk mode of the era. The way the solos become more melodic grand and improvisational in scope showcase the talent of this band when they played together. It’s by far one of my favorite songs that the future Kenny G would ever be associated with.
Filed under 1980's, Boogie Funk, drums, electric piano, jazz funk, Jeff Lorber, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Kenny Gorelick, Marlon McClain, post disco, rhythm guitar, Saxophone, synth bass, synthesizers