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huffingtonpost : A Conversation with Jeff Lorber

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ragogna/chats-with-the-manhattan_b_4000078.html



HaciendaHacienda
(2013/08/27)
Jeff Lorder Fusion

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A Conversation with Jeff Lorber

Mike Ragogna: Hey Jeff, you're back to the fusion. What got you back in?

Jeff Lorber: I guess what I should really start with is what got me out of fusion in the first place. What happened was what happens with a lot of musical styles. In the late seventies and early eighties, fusion was really popular and record labels were signing anybody with a saxophone or a guitar. It was just sort of getting played out. It was oversaturated. It kind of had its day. I was sort of interested in moving on and exploring some other styles of music, which I did. But now, fusion jazz is something I think kind of has its luster back. People are ready for music that's more harmonically adventurous and rhythmically interesting. So that's sort of the trajectory that I've been on in the last three records. The first new Jeff Lorber Fusion record was Now Is The Time, then we did Galaxy, and this is sort of like the third in a series you might say and I think it's the best one. We've really got a great ensemble with Eric Marienthal on sax, Jimmy Haslip on the bass and Vinnie Colaiuta playing drums on most of the tracks. I think the writing is a little more focused and we've been doing a lot of touring, too, so this record represents that experience of touring a lot, seeing what works and what doesn't, and I think most of the music on this record is sort of ready to play to concert audiences.

MR: You wrote everything on the project and you had a couple of co-writes with Jimmy, "Everlast" and "Dragonfly," but I wanted to ask you about Zappa's "King Kong." What inspired this behemoth?

JL: [laughs] Well, I used to be a huge fan of Frank Zappa when I was, I guess, fourteen or something like that. In 1967, I turned on the FM radio when I was growing up in Philadelphia and I heard some Frank Zappa music. I think the first song I heard was a song called "Help, I'm A Rock." I'd never heard it and I had never heard anything like that. It made me go, "Whoa! What is that?" It was just unbelievable, so different and funny and interesting. I became a huge fan, I went to see him many times in the next few years. I've always really liked that song "King Kong," and that was in addition to being played by Frank at the time there were a bunch of rock bands in the Philadelphia area that used to play around and some other bands would play that song too. It was almost like a standard. It was years before the idea of jam bands, but there were jam bands in Philadelphia. There was this huge park, it's kind of like the Philadelphia version of New York's Central Park called Fairmount Park. They used to have concerts there all the time and these groups liked to play that song. I always thought it would be fun to do a version of it. It was kind of a last-minute addition, we had Vinnie in the studio who used to play with Frank and Vinnie, and Jimmy and I jammed on it and it turned out great. Then when we were able to get Jean-Luc Ponty on it. That was really lucky that he was into it and we were able to get him. We also got Ed Mann, who used to play in Mothers Of Invention. So it's almost a Mothers Of Invention reunion song in a way.

MR: Who were some of the artists you grooved on as you were getting your musical maturity on?

JL: It sort of went in stages. I was lucky that in my family, I had a couple of older cousins that were into some different music. I had a bunch of cousins that were into folk music like Bob Dylan and that kind of stuff and when the family would get together, they'd all get out their guitars and play and I was not feeling that at all. Later, I became a Bob Dylan fan, but not at this point. I had this one cousin who was a drummer, and he had a drum set up in the basement of my aunt's house, and they had a wire that connected one of the speakers for the stereo down to the basement where he could play drums along, and he had this great record collection of Horace Silver and early Miles Davis records and different things. Mostly Blue Note records, I guess. So I got turned onto jazz from my cousin Stewart. Then I had another cousin, Ernie, who played piano a little bit and he taught me my very first jazz blues on the piano. It was a Dizzy Gillespie song called "Birks' Works." So I kind of grew up in Philly listening to folks on the radio, to a lot of the early Philadelphia sound and Motown, of course. I didn't like The Beatles at first because my two older sisters liked them, so I automatically didn't like them, but then I became a huge Beatles fan after I heard their song "You Can't Do That." That really turned me on. Let's face it, it was an incredible time for music through the late sixties and early seventies. I was lucky, I actually went to Woodstock too. I hitchhiked with some friends of mine.

MR: How old were you and just how high did you get?

JL: [laughs] Well, unfortunately, I got a little sick there and they had a little medical tent and there were a bunch of people whose bare feet were cut by the glass in the mud. I remember seeing about forty people all sitting on chairs with various bandages on their feet, but I had to bend over and get a shot of penicillin in my butt in the medical tent while I was there.

MR: Oh my God, you too? No, just kidding. What acts did you get into?

JL: I remember hearing Crosby, Stills & Nash and Richie Havens, and I was actually there the final day when most people had left and I heard Jimi Hendrix, which was incredible. There weren't many people left around then. But the thing about Woodstock besides the music was it was just an unbelievable cultural event and to be there was really cool. Another aspect of it is everybody has this image of peace and love, but most of these people were from New York and they kind of had that New York attitude.

MR: Hey, hey, hey, hey, I'm from New York! You watch that!

JL: [laughs] You've got to love that about New Yorkers, though. That's one of their charming traits.

MR: And was there truly free love everywhere?

JL: I think I was a little young to experience that, but there probably was some of that. That's just basically the atmosphere of that era in general, to some degree, but I didn't see anything that would specifically indicate that. Another thing that happened was when we were walking up to the event--you couldn't drive up because all the roads were closed--somebody had found out it was basically free, you didn't need a ticket to get in, but I bought a ticket from somebody that was selling it, not knowing that I didn't really need it. At the time, I thought, "Oh, wow, how stupid was that, I just bought a ticket!" but hey, I still have that ticket and I have it in a frame on my wall. Now I'm really glad I bought the ticket.

MR: And if you have a poster along with that ticket, then you're a multi-millionaire and you don't even know it.

JL: [laughs] That's funny.

MR: Did you also get caught out in the rain?

JL: I think somehow we had a tent or something. I don't remember rain being a big problem. I remember mud, and the outhouses weren't the greatest, but the rain didn't seem to be a big problem somehow.

MR: Okay, back to your album Hacienda and how Woodstock inspired it. No, kidding. Was this a grouping of songs that you had for a while or did you sit down and create the project from scratch?

JL: Honestly, for the most, part we knew that Vinnie Colaiuta was going to be available. This was like last September. He was going to be coming into my studio and there was another project I was going to be working on, a rock project from another artist from Portugal that hasn't actually come out yet. I knew that had been scheduled for a while, and that's what really inspired some of the writing, because I knew Vinnie was coming. Also, all of this touring we had been doing, I just really was inspired by all of these gigs and the energy of the crowds that we had seen. We went out on this one really long tour where we started in Southeast Asia and played in Taipei and Jakarta and the Philippines, which a couple of those places I've never played in before, and then we went over to Europe and played there for about a month. I kind of had all that energy and it almost happened by itself, practically. It's just so effortless. Something I really enjoy is writing and I tend to do it all the time to some extent anyway. Jimmy didn't get writer's credit on a lot of the music, but he definitely helped shape it, so it's great to have him on the sounding board. He added some real key arrangement ideas and overdub ideas. So I really like working in that collaborative space like that.

MR: Thus the fusion, as opposed to confusion.

JL: [laughs]

MR: Jeff, take us on a tour of the album, and is there one track that more or less sums up the album?

JL: To me, they're all related and I think they all have aspects that are a little different. I think "Solar Wind," in terms of an up tempo, burning fusion instrumental, that sort of represents one end of the spectrum, and "Dragonfly" is the other end of the spectrum. There's one tune that's definitely got an R&B flavor, which is "Fab Gear," and then a couple that have more of that dance music thing like "Hacienda." Maybe the title track, "Hacienda," would more than anything kind of show the energy, and also the fact that it's got some melodies that people can grab onto. That definitely a really important element to me, that I feel like my music, compared to some other people that do fusion jazz music. I always try to include melodies that everybody can kind of hear and hum along with; that's important.

MR: Jeff, by many, you're in the same tier as folks like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Weather Report, Return To Forever. How does it feel to be part of this iconic class of musicians?

JL: Well, I would love to be considered like that. I don't quite see it that way. I think those guys are really the models of what I've been striving for as a piano player, Chick and Herbie and Keith Jarrett. They're just phenomenal musicians, and George Duke who just passed away, he falls into that category. There was a second generation of fusion bands, though, that kind of came up behind those guys, which would be Spyro Gyra and Pat Metheny Group, kind of a younger, more melodic music. That's more of the way I see it, but hey, if you want to put me in the class of artists that you just mentioned, I'd be so honored. All of those musicians have a level of improvisational gifts just in terms of writing and production, and the records that they made still stand to this day as absolutely brilliant and kind of milestones I guess.

MR: You touched on it a little earlier, but can you go a bit more into the state of fusion these days.

JL: The music business as an industry, you look back at how major labels in the past had jazz divisions and they would really help out jazz artists being promoted and marketed. I guess I was very, very lucky to start at that time when it existed, and it doesn't now. The same thing goes for smooth jazz radio. It gets a really bad rap, but the truth is, it was one of the few ways that instrumental artists could be heard on the radio in a mass way and unfortunately, that's for the most part gone now too. That said, there's a certain freedom in not having to fit any formats. Basically, everybody that's touring right now is just kind of hustling at whatever level they can get going. So I think there is more freedom and more creative expression happening in general, and I certainly feel that way, and I'm taking advantage of it as much as possible. I think the international touring circuit appeals to me because that's where there are a lot of young people getting into this music and, in general, there's more enthusiasm. There's sort of a different topography when you go to Europe or when you go to Southeast Asia than here in the US in terms of the kind of audiences you get.

MR: You also mentioned George Duke earlier, he passed away recently but I was lucky enough to have interviewed him towards the end. Do you have an interesting or unique George Duke story?

JL: I was always a huge fan and I was very fortunate that I got the chance to hang out with him and know him a little better. We were both nominated for Grammys in successive years and when you go to those events, you get to see the other nominees. We would hang out and just kind of talk about equipment. He was very nice and I'm sure everyone knows that besides being a great musician, he was also just a lovely guy, very funny and very charming. Also, we were on a cruise one time and when you're on one of those cruises, you're sort of stuck with each other a little bit; you see a lot of the same people at the same time. There was another place where I kind of got to hang out with George. There was a guy who did all of his technical work that was a friend of mine, so that's something that we sort of shared together. Unfortunately, because we both do the same thing--which is play keyboards--we didn't get a chance to really play together; there's this one YouTube clip where at a NAMM show a few years ago, there was a company that was trying to resurrect the Fender Rhodes and we both played together there. Yeah, I was a huge fan and it was really a shock that he passed away because I had no idea he was ill. I thought we would have many more years of great music from him.

MR: Let me ask you my traditional question. What advice do you have for new artists?

JL: Or for students or aspiring artists perhaps? I used to actually be less encouraging because the music business is very competitive and it's tough. You have to really love it and work very hard to succeed, so I used to think that if somebody's getting into this, they shouldn't do it unless they're really sure they have a talent. But nowadays, there are so many people studying for different kinds of professions that have disappeared from the marketplace. I think music is as good as anything. If you love music, there are a lot of places to earn money making music nowadays with video games, TV, film, records too to some extent, although I think the recorded music model is on the way out. Basically, it's just one of those things where if you love it, and if you're ready to dedicate yourself to practice and learn and really focus yourself to figure out how you're going to find your little niche, I would recommend it.

MR: And speaking of video games, you were on Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night a while back.

JL: That was quite a few years ago, but yeah. That was like sort of another session that I did that I guess got a little bit of notoriety.

MR: You've had such a varied career playing on so many other people's projects, Herb Alpert, Dave Koz, and so on.

JL: Yeah, the Herb Alpert thin in particular. We just finished that up a month or two ago and it's just such a pleasure to work with him. He is just an incredible, wonderful guy and fun to know and to hang out with and he's got so much experience, it's quite a learning experience to work with him. The last thing that we did was quite a while ago, I think over ten years ago, so I was really glad to be able to get back with him and write some more music.

MR: And what does the future hold for Jeff Lorber and/or The Jeff Lorber Fusion?

JL: We're just hoping to get out there as much as we can and play this new music. I feel really positive about it. I think when people hear us, they're going to dig it. So thanks for helping spread the word. I hope everybody gets the chance to check it out.

MR: Nice. All right Jeff, as always, thank you so much for the and I really do wish you the best.

JL: Thank you very much.
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Appendix

プロフィール

Jeff Lorber Fansite

Author:Jeff Lorber Fansite
キーボード奏者のジェフ・ローバーは、1952年11月4日ペンシルヴァニア州フィラデルフィア生まれ。
バークリー音楽院、ボストン大学に学んだ後、チック・コリアの指導を受け、 '77年に『ジェフ・ローバー・フュージョン』を発表。
L.A.フュージョンに新風を吹き込むと同時に、ケニー・Gやデイヴ・コズの押し出しにもひと役買い、'80年代のビッグ・アイコンになった。『ウィザード・アイランド』や『ヒート・オブ・ザ・ナイト』など自己名義の作品をヒットさせる一方、'80年代後半からプロデュースにも乗り出し、マンハッタン・トランスファー、マイケル・フランクス、シーナ・イーストンらを担当。さらに、ダンスやファンク系の分野にも進出することでキャリア・アップを果たしてきました。”Now is the Time"が、第53回グラミー賞にノミネートされました。(ノミネートは4回目)




ジェフローバー氏の音楽活動を応援してくださる方のメッセージをお待ちしております。皆様がライブで聴きたい曲についてもリクエストお待ちしております。*定期的にアンケート集計結果は、ジェフ・ローバー氏本人に伝えられます。
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